What do you wish more people knew about homelessness? I think there is a misperception that people “choose” to be homeless or that it is a “lifestyle.” That is just simply not the …
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What do you wish more people knew about homelessness?
I think there is a misperception that people “choose” to be homeless or that it is a “lifestyle.” That is just simply not the case. While there may be a tiny percentage of people that want to live “off the grid,” it is not our experience that people want to be homeless. When we engage with individuals and offer them appropriate and dignified housing options, 99 percent of the time they choose housing and stability over living on the streets, under bridges, in their cars and in motels. And, sometimes, it can be difficult to engage with people who feel they have been left behind and shunned by an economy, a government, a community but that doesn’t make them “service-resistant.” It just means we have to try harder and be more compassionate about their trauma and the issues that lead them into homelessness. Like with all relationships, we have to build trust.
In your experience, what works? What are the best ways to improve lives?
Housing option with wrap-around supportive services is the long-term, permanent solution to homelessness. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need short-term, emergency options while we work on the long-term solution. We need low-barrier, flexible-shelter and transitional-housing options to help people stabilize and stay safe while they await an appropriate long-term housing option. Through transitional and permanent housing, it is imperative to provide supportive services tailored to each individual and family to make sure they can stay stably housed and address the issue that led to their homelessness in the first place. These services can generally taper off once the health care issues, mental health issues, employment issues, criminal justice issues and other family-related issues have been appropriately managed or resolved.
What can the average person do to help the homeless in their community and fight the factors that cause it?
As a community, we could show more compassion. We can make eye contact and speak with people experiencing homelessness. We can see them as members of our community and not problems to be dealt with. And, ultimately, we need to build the public and political will to invest in improving the lives of those that have been marginalized and left behind by committing to creating more affordable housing options and services that can help people stabilize and lead a productive and successful life.
— Clarke Reader
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