There is a national model for addressing the many complex issues relating to homelessness that has been built around the idea that the most effective way to end homelessness, is to get people into homes. As obvious as that sounds, it was actually a departure from many prior schools of thought that believed that housing was the end goal after a person has tackled their addiction issues, cleaned themselves up, got on the proper medication and got a job. Logical thinking supports the notion that anyone will be more successful bettering their lives if they have a safe warm place to sleep.
That logic makes sense. It actually makes a lot of sense. But qualified sense. If you’ve never had to look for a place to live in this town. good for you. For the rest of us, the idea of “just simply get people into housing” is about as simple as determining the equation for general relativity. But it’s still a good idea.
The problem is that because this model is so effective, most of the funding for homeless services is now going towards programs that do have a success rate of getting people in permanent housing. Again, that’s good. That’s what we should be doing. AND in the meantime, there are people who don’t have housing. Tonight. There are people whose lack of housing makes it very difficult for them to integrate successfully into other programs that can help them get their life to a better, healthier and safer place.
Downtown Streets Team is set up to work with people and help them access services and meet their individual goals, regardless of how long their wait for housing is. Everyone who is experiencing homelessness is so for a different reason and the path out of homelessness is going to be different.
Let’s continue to prioritize housing for everyone, and let’s not lose sight of the needs of people who aren’t yet able to be housed.
If housing can come first, great. If not, we don’t need to wait to help people find dignity, community, and meaning.