Helping the Homeless
Knowing Who the Homeless Are
I have not spent years researching the issue of homelessness. I am not going to recite an endless array of statistics, those are found easily enough through a simple Google search. What I will do is share a bit of personal insight into the struggles faced by the homeless and offer a few ideas on what can be done.
Over the last decade I have met quite a few homeless people and through this experience I learned a little about them. The truth be told, I even found myself homeless for a short period of time. I was one of the lucky ones, because with a little determination and coming into contact with a few wonderful people who offered a helping hand, I managed to get back on my feet again rather quickly. Still, the experience gave me great insight into a world most never think about and taught me a lot about life.
As a compassionate society, we need to look into ideas that can provide real assistance to the homeless. We have the Salvation Army that does a lot of good things for those less fortunate, but it only scratches the surface of what needs to be done. Homelessness can not be solved by government handouts and a handful of churches and charitable orginazations. These things certainly help, but they only serve as a bandaid. What we really need are programs that help the homeless to help themselves.
The key is to establish programs that help the homeless get back on their feet, without fostering a reliance upon the system. As a society, we need to help them succeed on their own. Give them the tools they need to put their lives back together. We are not helping the problem if we merely give them what they need to keep them off the streets and out of sight.
One of the first steps in helping someone get off the streets is showing them that they are capable of achieving happiness in life, give them a sense of hope. It may sound strange, but many people who have been homeless for any amount of time begin to feel there is no hope for a better life. They simply give up and begin to feel that the American dream does not exist for them. This emotional state sets off a continuing downward spiral.
The Homeless Need A Safe Place To Stay
It is obvious that the homeless need a safe place to stay in order to get off the street, yet this means more than just a roof. Homeless shelters provide a good service, but those places are simply dry places to stay the night and get a meal. They do little to aid a person in getting back on their feet.
It is important that they have an address and a phone number in order to use during a job search. Few perspective employers are willing to hire someone that they are not able to reach by telephone. This leaves the homeless stuck with the day labor jobs that rarely lead to a permanent job and do not pay enough to afford housing. This often traps them in an endless cycle.
Access to Counseling
Many homeless people suffer from emotional and mental disorders that often keep them from functioning in society. Many of these problems could be helped with counseling, guidance and medical treatments. Unfortunately, the poorest segment of society is often the least likely to receive proper treatment for things that the rest of us have access to.
If we do not address the various causes of homelessness, then we can not expect to have an impact on the problem. In order to help the homeless get off the street and back into society, we need to help them deal with the issues that put them on the street in the first place.
Training and Employment
It is surprising to some, but many homeless people are not that different from you and I. They want to have a steady source of income, a place to live and a chance at a decent life. It is the American dream and most people want to be independent. I believe the percent of homeless people who are content with mere handouts is lower than most would suspect.
Many times, the thing that prevents the homeless from getting back on the road to independence is the lack of job training and skills. They are often forced to work through day labor for low pay and never able to take the next step. They find themselves in a situation where they are working just to exist. Before long, they are discouraged and end up back where they began.
Any program aimed at helping the homeless should include some sort of job training. It should begin with how to write a resume and interview for a position. Offer some courses in basic job skills that could assist them in gaining future employment, these courses could be based on a skills assessment. Helping them find employment will be the biggest step towards helping them get off the street.
We Can End Homelessness!
It is up to us as a society to find solutions to help the less fortunate among us. It is not enough to throw them a handout and sweep them under the carpet. The problem still exists even if we put it out of sight. As one of the most prosperous nations in history, it is time that we make a serious effort to end poverty and homelessness in our cities. It will make us all stronger.
© 2012 Christopher J Wood