Monday, October 25, 2010

Ending Homelessness, Part II: Community and Independence

It is easiest just to provide basic services, but poverty will not end for those in need if their basic needs are just provided for them. There must be larger support networks. Just as one of the ways people become homeless is by not having a support network, even so, a support network of community must be formed if the homeless are to escape poverty and to be accepted in the community. So this means that the there must be a variety of ways that the community and the homeless can associate and be educated about each other and how to live together. Also, besides simply providing for the homeless, the community must be providing means for the homeless to help themselves, so they can be independent, even if they are still living an alternative lifestyle.

Welcoming communities—The homeless need communities that they can feel welcome in. There are so many communities that look at them askance or are so formal or well-dressed that the homeless don’t feel comfortable. Some communities need to be open and willing to even seek the homeless to join them. This could be churches, synagogues, or other faiths. It could also be book clubs or chess clubs. It could be 12 step meetings or other kinds of help groups. As long as the homeless know they are welcome, a few will seek the shelter and comfort of community. As well as the coffee.

Community education—Every community has their own misinformation about the homeless, and most housed communities are fearful of the homeless. Education pieces in churches, community groups (such as the Optimist Club) are essential. But to connect to the entire community, it would be helpful to have newspaper articles or even television ads.

Advocates with local government—The homeless and those who work with the homeless should have a group that communicates their needs and concerns to city hall, local police, neighborhood associations and even the state government. This may not change policy, but it can communicate that the homeless are equal citizens with everyone else.

Volunteer Training: For those working with the homeless in day or night shelters, there should be training opportunities, or even required training in the following areas: Basic information about homelessness, preventing prejudice against the homeless, conflict resolution and preventing conflict, relational v. service mentality, preventing burnout.

Service opportunities—It is essential that the homeless feel ownership in the services that are providing for their needs. This gives them self-esteem and it assists how they are seen by the community. Not only that, but the services themselves benefit by having those receiving the services providing input in how services are given. This means that the homeless should be volunteers in shelters, serving food, working on community projects and being on advocacy and networking groups.

Labor—Since one of the most important issues for the homeless is un- or under-employment, there should be programs to give the homeless opportunities for employment. However, different homeless have different labor issues. Some need day labor, but others can’t even work for a whole day. Also some are able to have full time jobs and so just need employment services to assist them in obtaining labor, who will help with resumes, interviewing and other job seeking skills.

Financial services—Some of the homeless cannot trust themselves with finances. They know that they will waste their finances when they get some from labor. They might benefit from some financial services that could help their bills get paid.

Counseling/Support Groups: There are many issues that can be dealt with in a support group level. Not only living homeless in general, but it would greatly assist the homeless to have support groups or counseling services dealing with anger issues, addiction issues and stress management.

Education: Some of the homeless simply need some education to help them get a new start on life. One of the basic classes a number of the homeless could use is basic computer skills. But other classes that might prove beneficial is critical thinking skills (which might be taught through a literature course or a course on everyday logic) or basic life skills, especially in preparation for living indoors. It might be good if a local community college could offer job training skills to those seeking other full time employment. Also, for homeless teens there may need to be a program to get them into public school or to help them obtain a GED.

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