Homeless, Houseless, or just disconnected?

The cure for being HOMELESS is to have HOUSING. But that is just the physical cure. It says nothing about the psychological and emotional ramifications of being disenfranchised and suffering the many other causes and symptoms of a homeless situation.

I was reading an article on Houselessness. And while I feel that the author is a little Hippy-ish and wishy-washy. I found a  point or two to ponder such as :

You know how you hear on the news “A family is homeless tonight after their house in suburb ‘x’  caught fire and despite fire fighter’s efforts it was completely destroyed.”

They aren’t homeless! That family still has each other and all their social connectedness and contacts are still intact. A building was destroyed, nothing more. Ok, so they are houseless. They need shelter. But come on folks, they aren’t homeless! The difference between that family and someone living on the streets is the level of connectedness they experience.”

I beg to differ – of course they are Homeless but chances are that they will end their homelessness sooner rather than later because it was just a physical loss and not the loss of employment or the ability to procure other housing such as an apartment, etc…

The Homelessness after Katrina was  more devastating because it was more than homes lost – it was an economy, places to work, and the ability to create the funds needed to purchase shelter, food, and health care.  Building loads of new housing will not change anything because the people who move in will not have jobs to go to or any way to pay for lights and water or heat : other than public assistance.

HOUSING FIRST- YES, absolutely and always. But coming in at a close second should be employment, job skills training, education and everything needed to create self-sustaining self-sufficiency.

Someone living on the streets could have contact with 30 plus people per week who are paid to have contact with them, but that isn’t a genuine experience of connectedness… Further ‘wrap around’ services are needed to address mental health, drug and alcohol abuse and all the other issues. But so many of these service providers overlook the need for connectedness. The sector overlooks the need to gain social connectedness and doesn’t understand how central it is to alleviating ‘homelessness.

I see that, I hear that, and I get it – but I have not experienced it – much.

At LAMP Community in LA there is the Art Studio, Groups, a Focus on Community and I used to lead Men’s and Women’s groups as well as Jim’s Ticket to take sheltered, homeless, and housed “members of LAMP” to the theater and other activities. LAMP is an excellent example of Building a Community as part of the opportunity for  change and chosing a life with dignity.

As a DPSS GAIN worker I am paid to see and speak with homeless people : I suppose that I am one of those “30 plus people per week” mentioned above. However I do focus on getting people connected and plugged in. I work toward engaging people in work, training, school or community service. I believe that you can only be what you see – andas a service provider I am obligated to be the tour guide occasionally.

At PATH Achieve recovery classes and outside engagement are part of the services provided to the clients. Ending Homelessness isn’t just assigning housing – it is about buiklding a stronger person.

Becomming disconnected is one of the risk factors for becoming homeless – but it does not mean that all people who are homeless are without connections.

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