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HOMELESSNESS IS A HUMAN TRAGEDY

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Homelessness impacts all of us, whether or not we experience it ourselves.

It’s a public health problem. Not nature, but cruel people of society are all responsible for this due to haste, waste, and unjustified distribution of resources. Without their own housing and the social status to use restrooms in businesses or other public places, people who are homeless often have to relieve themselves outside. They lack access to health care and often have chronic illnesses, made worse by tough living conditions: sleeping outside in all weather, marriage issues eating cheap starchy foods, and being in close quarters at social service agencies with other unhealthy people.

Most importantly, homelessness is a human tragedy. Our own community members live in tents and under bridges, vulnerable to inclement weather and violence, stripped of dignity and our collective respect. When we think about what causes homelessness, we often think about addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, job loss, and disabilities. And those are all accurate demographic characteristics of the homeless population. Domestic violence rates are high, and most people who are homeless have been victims of physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives. While some people work through day labor companies or have service industry jobs, unemployment is more common. And an estimated 40% of the homeless population is mentally mishandled. They describe all of us. They are all normal life crises. In our own communities and in our own families. Who is on medication for mental health problems, like depression or bipolar disorder? We may know people who’ve experienced domestic violence or other traumas. In the tough economy of the past few years, we’ve all known people who’ve lost their jobs.

The difference between people who experience those challenges and become homeless and people who experience them and don’t lose their housing is simple: it supports. If we have a strong support system around us when something happens, then people who care about us intervene when they notice us too much. They help us cover our rent or mortgage payments while we’re between jobs. They show up at the hospital when we get sick or hurt and they pick our kids up from school when we can’t get there ourselves. People who are homeless are just as varied as people who are not; the only commonality among them is a profound lack of support. Sometimes they’ve come from a background of family support and have lost it because mental illness and substance abuse damaged their relationships. More often, they never had that support, to begin with.

Costs of Unsheltered Homelessness

Unsheltered homelessness is devastating for people enduring it; they are often exposed to violence and other traumatic experiences or resort to participation in risky behaviors as a survival technique.  Unsheltered homelessness is also costly to local jurisdictions. People enduring unsheltered homelessness are reliant on public and emergency health systems and frequently interact with police,  and local jurisdictions are responsible for sanitation associated with people living outside. Some jurisdictions also take costly steps to make living outside less habitable, such as making sidewalks and benches less comfortable. With the high individual and government costs associated with managing unsheltered homelessness, ending it should be a priority across all levels of government and for the public.

Myths & Facts About Homelessness

Homelessness is an often misunderstood issue, in the world. Below are common misconceptions about people who experience homelessness, along with data-driven facts that refute those myths. By educating ourselves about homelessness, we empower ourselves as a community to solve the problem together.

We believe in pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. But what if you don’t have boots? When we talk about holding people accountable, we assume that they’ve had the same chances we’ve had, but done less with them. We assume their parents packed them lunch for school and helped them do their homework. That someone helped them apply for college, paid for it, and moved them into their first apartment when they graduated. But we’re mistaken. Most people who become homeless come from backgrounds of abuse and neglect. In fact, the odds of someone in the general population becoming homeless are 1 in 194, whereas those same odds for kids coming out of foster care are 1 in 11. Homeward Bound, a local nonprofit, serves more than 3,000 clients annually; of them, 65% have spent time in foster care.

Homeless people are dangerous

Homeless people are more likely to be victims of violent crimes than to commit those crimes themselves. People without housing are vulnerable and lack the safety that a home provides. While it is true that homeless people often have lengthy arrest records, they’re most often arrested for non-violent crimes associated with not having a home or trespassing charges for camping on someone else’s land.

People choose to be homeless

They don’t. Walk into a second-grade classroom anywhere & see how many hands get raised when you say, “Who wants to be homeless when you grow up?” No one wants to end up there. Sometimes people would rather camp than stay in shelters, where they have to follow rules that are tough for them to reconcile with their mental illnesses or substance abuse. And sometimes people get entrenched in homelessness when they’ve been there long enough, and the prospect of moving out of it is scary. None of this means that people are choosing it; instead, it means they need relationships and help to navigate their way out of homelessness & back into housing. Above all, our greatest misconception about homelessness is that the people who experience it somehow deserve it, should be defined by it, and are less valuable because of it. In reality, homeless people are more often victims of trauma, are defined by who they are rather than by their housing status, and are equally as human and equally as valuable as those of us who have homes of our own. It is possible for us to end homelessness, but the first step must be a fundamental recognition of the humanity we all share, regardless of where we sleep each night.

A History of Homelessness

During the Great Depression, people traveled looking for work and food, and very few people experienced homelessness. Families were stronger and took care of each other, faith communities collected money when one of their members had a need, and people knew and nurtured their neighbors and invested in their communities. Then the landscape begin to change, and homelessness emerged. The first wave came with the Community Mental Health Act, a piece of federal legislation that moved to deinstitutionalize mental health care. People who lived and received care in institutions were moved out and promised mental health care from local centers that were never developed. Without the same level of support they’d received in the institutions where they lived, people began to destabilize and weren’t able to maintain their housing. People with mental illness were the first wave, but not the only wave, and the homeless population grew significantly. As a nation, we responded with charity. Religious groups opened soup kitchens and shelters and clothing closets, hoping to keep people alive by meeting their basic needs while they worked to get themselves out of homelessness.

The charitable activities became collectively referred to as the Housing Readiness model, working under the assumption that people who were homeless weren’t yet ready for housing. The goal was to provide food and shelter to them while they worked to overcome addictions, stabilize their mental health, and obtain income. Once they had achieved those things, they would be ready to move into their own housing and to move forward in their lives. Unfortunately, the Housing Readiness model didn’t solve the problem. Emergency shelters had limited capacity, and people who needed them didn’t know whether or not they’d get a bed from one night to the next. They also had strong regulations that deterred people from accessing their services, like mandatory attendance at chapel services or strict entry and exit hours that made employment difficult.

Ending Homelessness Strategically

The plan is constructed on two simple beliefs. One is that housing ends homelessness. The other is that homelessness is a community-wide problem and therefore requires a community-wide solution. No single entity is responsible for or capable of solving the problem alone, but instead, the entire community must work together to get the job done. The third component is to prevent homelessness from occurring, by using emergency assistance funds to keep people in housing when they’re struggling to make ends meet, and by making sure that when people are discharged from hospitals, jails, or treatment programs, they have somewhere to go other than the streets. Much like with vehicle maintenance or health care, prevention is the most effective use of resources. And the final components are based on the Housing First model. The fourth is to move the community away from focusing on shelter towards investing resources into permanent housing programs. And the fifth is to keep people in housing once they’re there, by providing supportive services like substance abuse treatment, mental health care, and employment coaching that will help them stabilize and maintain their housing long-term.

Constructed Resource | HOMELESSNESS, SUBSTANCE ABUSE, ENCOURAGEMENT

SOCIAL GOOD MESSAGE

Sparrows by morning, live in peaceful nests! Design shouldn’t dominate things, shouldn’t dominate people. It should help people. Don’t spend your time solving your favorite problems, solve problems that need to be solved, generically. A home is a place where you live, and society is a place where your story begins. Honesty shares honesty, as it is honesty’s nature. Stay always in Ablution and get back to the trust you have been, with.

Addendum
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President

The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
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