I’ve heard it more than a few times, shelter employees and directors stating that their shelter is the only one that should be serving their community. If you look beneath the self-serving promotion, you realise that the shelters in each city and state are all competing for federal money. The lack of which means loosing jobs. Their jobs. Meanwhile, homeless people are trapped in the middle. Such practises as barring shelter residents from moving from one shelter to another, voluntarily, are common. They don’t like “shelter shoppers” they say. They might have to upgrade their services (and attitude) if people were given freedom of choice.
When I hear a shelter staffer or director trash talking another shelter, I ask them: “What if the other shelter is closer to a job?” “How about if a homeless person has a dispute with another resident and wants to move?” Shouldn’t homeless people have the right to freedom. Many of them were in the armed forces and fought for those rights. Why not give it to them, and stop competing for business at the expense of those you are being paid to serve.
That’s all I have to say about that.
I experienced ‘GateKeeping’ myself. The public housing people try to make it very hard for the homeless to get a unit.
An article for the local paper.
When I read articles in the Honolulu Star Advertiser about how people are angry about how homeless people are making “paradise” look shabby, I start to get a sense of dread. Was it not too long ago that similar letters sent to our local politicians and to the newspapers prompted the City Council to throw away the tents of homeless people? I remember seeing numerous homeless people soaking wet, distraught and bereft, after an unsheltered night in the pouring rain. By the way, how much do you think the cost is to the tax payer, when they get sick and need to be admitted to the hospital?
Everyone has their rights in this country, including the right to free speech, but if the solution to the “problem” of homelessness is to treat them as if they have no rights, then you are in the wrong country.
Before you spend any time writing a letter bemoaning the loss of paradise, please do us all a favor. Spend one sleepless night walking around those 24 hour spots where the homeless seem to congregate. Do you want their life? Endlessly chased from one spot to the next, being told not to close your eyes or sleep. Having to sit up all the time or risk being ousted from area. Getting dirty looks from strangers and evoking titters of laughter from teenagers.
You can end homelessness, for at least a few. Volunteer at a shelter and make sure that the residents are being treated fairly. Drop off unneeded clothing in a spot where homeless people frequent. Talk to your friends and family about homeless people in a manner that respects that, they too, are human. Strike up a conversation with a homeless person that seems like they need a friend (decline requests for money or favors, if they make you uncomfortable, but just listen to what they have to say). When people are treated well, sometimes they find the strength to turn their own lives around.
If you think that all homeless people are just an eye-sore and a burden on the system, you need to stop thinking of Hawaii as the Aloha State; because it isn’t, thanks to you.
From personal experience, I can tell you that being homeless (sheltered or un sheltered) is hard when you are trying to hold down a job. Even a part time cleaning job. Taking a shower to get clean for work is just one of the daily hassles. Interviewing for a job without an address is another. The list goes on and on.
Housing first. Getting the homeless indoors. A place to stay where you can cook your food and get cleaned up for work and relax when you come home. Nothing fancy… not a room at the Ritz.
If someone wants to work, but is struggling to hold on to a job because they are not sleeping enough &/or don’t have access to a place to get clean/keep their clothes clean &/or are paying a large part of their paycheck for rent in a temporary place at the Y, can’t there be some priority for these people to get low income housing to get them off the streets?
Despite what people believe, not everyone who is homeless has come from poverty. I know of people who were singers who have traveled the world entertaining before they fell on hard times, a contractor who once owned almost three dozen properties before the economy soured, and an investor with a failed $400,000 portfolio. A friend of mine even knew an actor that was on a television series in L.A. that returned to a homeless shelter every night after filming (he was in bankruptcy).
Here is the story of the son of two well-known actors and his experiences with homelessness.
Note: The story about the church in Erie, PA sounds great. I wonder how many of the churches in my town (and yours) would do something like that?
This is a good read about why homeless people avoid living in shelters:
In my experience, shelters are extremely filthy and crowded. I end up with respiratory problems and have to go on an inhaler to catch my breath when I lived in shelters. There is also an increased risk of catching TB and Hepatitis in shelters.
One of my friends told me recently that a shelter he knows of gets deliveries of cleaning supplies, but hardly uses those and the stock keeps piling up– until a staffer carts some away for home use. Don’t get me wrong, wouldn’t want to clean up any icky mess that someone carelessly left, but if you catch them in the act, glove them up and give them a mop and pail. Otherwise, they won’t learn to respect the place they are living in.
Here is a workable idea to house the homeless, rehab housing, and create community involvement:
I’ll add my 2 cents:
* How about having the homeless people volunteer to do the rehab (if able, and under supervision).
* Shelters can be the first place where potential good neighbors and responsible property caretakers can be found. (Yes, there are some people who are, and it shows.) People who get along naturally cluster together in shelters and these bonds should be supported. (No throwing a trouble maker in their midst and making the homeless decide the best way to deal with the nasty person. Even if that’s how the staff gets some jollies. Doing this causes friction in the group, because they will differ on how to deal with the trouble maker. Some will be passive and some proactive. ) Instead use the community that they have together and try to build on it.
* Sit those potential candidates down together and set out a plan: A house will be offered as a rehab to the group. They will contract to help rehab it within their abilities, dedicate a certain amount of days a week to work on the property, name people who would like to be alternates (in case anyone pulls out), set the rent amount and have some kind of guarantee payment worked out. Maybe the gov can give these people a grant (after they have rehabed the house and shown good faith) to cover 3 to 4 months rent in case some of the members of the house co-op mess up and don’t pay rent. They would have to put another renter in (another person from the shelter? must pay deposit, since no rehab of house was done?), but 3 to 4 months to cover the short fall will keep everybody from landing back on the street.
This is a related post of stuff being done in Chicago:
Of course, all this work can be done, but if a few sour neighbors get nasty because they find out that the house is inhabited by former homeless people, well that’s another battle. To which I say, don’t be an a**hole. You could be homeless too.