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Ending Homelessness

The three main causes of homelessness as I see it are:

1) Substance Abuse

2) Mental illness

3) Economic hardship

These 3 are often interrelated and thus make the problem more complex.

Another prerequisite is to distinguish homelessness from houselessness. Some folks for whatever reason voluntarily choose to live rough, out of doors, and in public spaces. These are the houseless. And while services and assistance should remain available, at no time should they become compulsory.

    1. Self worth & dignity

    Homelessness, poverty, addiction, and mental illness all come with a stigma attached. This invisible weight didn't drag many into homelessness, but it is often the anchor which prevents their escape.

    2. Causes, not symptoms

    A clean bed, fresh clothes, and a healthy meal are important and necessary treatments for the homeless. However, they do virtually nothing to help those who want to escape.

    3. Skills testing and job counseling

    Once your folks are warm, dry, clean, and fed; it is time to ascertain their job skills, job experience, and natural aptitude. There are batteries of tests that can do this but one on one interviews can be just as effective and are more humanizing. They also take longer and are generally more expensive.

    4. Mentorship and Apprenticeship

    Everyone participating in this program needs to have equity in the program. Maybe it's housekeeping in the shelter. Maybe it's helping peers with job applications. Maybe it's simply being the one who always listens. Skin in the game will help mitigate some costs and goes a long way towards dignity and self worth. Helping others helps our own self.

    5. Addiction treatment

    For many who are homeless, this is the next major mountain to climb. No one can be forced into sobriety. For those who are not ready, is there a way to treat their addiction in the meantime?

    6. Role models

    People who have successfully returned from homelessness can be the most vital component. Whether as mentors, counselors, employers, colleagues, or just friends; someone who is authentic and BTDT can be a lifeline.

    7. Meet people where they are.

    If I'm not ready to come "inside", tearing down my tent doesn't help me. Showing me a safer, cleaner way to live in my tent does.

    8. It takes public dollars.

    Most who are afflicted with homelessness are incapable of recovering on their own. Peers, charities, churches, and government all have a role to play.

    But simply throwing money at the problem is not a solution. It is only a band-aid. Necessary but temporary.

    9. A 12 step program focused on being homeless.

    Many homeless are attempting recovery in twelve step programs. Substance abuse, gambling, depression, even those who facilitate these activities have 12 step programs. And some of the participants are homeless. But I am not aware of a program that is organized around the 12 steps of recovery that deals specifically with the challenges of being homeless.

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