Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pieces of the Puzzle to End Homelessness, Part 1

Ending homelessness is like a puzzle. Each puzzle has areas of the puzzle that are easy to see and to put together, and other parts that aren’t as obvious and more difficult to fit together. But all are necessary if we are going to finish the puzzle. Even so, ending homelessness is complex and some parts of the solution are difficult to piece together. But if we do not have all the pieces together, then the goal of ending homelessness will not be accomplished. If we put someone in a apartment, but don’t give them assistance with food and counseling, they will not be able to sustain their place in a home.

The basic steps of providing the needs of the homeless is fundamentally providing survival for the homeless. It is meeting their basic needs so they can go on with the business of putting their lives together. It is best if an entire community work on this as a whole, rather than piecemeal. A piecemeal approach will mean that there is a lot of overlap and unnecessary redundancy. It also means that where some services will be provided in abundance, other services will not be provided for at all. For this to happen, one of the foundations of helping the homeless is a networking group that will keep all the groups in communication with each other.

Food: Providing food is the easiest and most basic level for most people who want to help the homeless. Many churches and community groups provide meals, sack lunches, sandwiches or simply snacks for free. With only a few exceptions, food is the one need that is met for most homeless people in urban areas.

Clothes: This used to be a basic resource for the homeless, but having room to store a variety of clothes is becoming more difficult.

Showers: No one can find a job or feel good about themselves without a shower. For most of the homeless, a shower is an occasional luxury, rather than a part of a daily routine. Only a few centers have the resources to provide showers, so this continues to be a need.

Laundry: Because of a limited amount of clothes, the homeless desperately need laundry facilities. Especially during wet weather, when their bedding and clothing is in need of drying.

Basic Supplies: Some of the basic supplies the homeless have are razors, deodorant, sun screen,

Day shelters: The homeless need a safe place to be during the day where the police and the community won’t be harassing them, and a place where they can have some structure. It is also good to have a central place where they can be found to do labor or provide services.

Night Shelters: Of course, the homeless are most vulnerable to the weather and those who wish to harm them at night. A place where they can sleep safely is important.

ID assistance: Every community should have one or two experts in obtaining one’s identification if it is lost or destroyed. The homeless are especially vulnerable to losing ID, and will need to have both assistance and small financial help to obtain their ID back.

Health clinics: Free health care with doctors on staff is important for any group that does not have insurance.

Mental health clinics: Given the large number of mentally ill on the street, it is important to have a mental health clinic, which includes mental health evaluations, available to those without insurance.

Dental health clincs: A significant area of health that is often missed is dental health. Poor dental health can not only effect one’s teeth, but lead to other kinds of illness and mental health issues.

Medication aid: Most hospitals and clinics don’t have a program for a full run of medicines, even antibiotics. A program should be established for those with low income to obtain prescriptions at low cost.

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