Homelessness in Lane County
I have many thoughts and ideas on many subjects. I would like to start with some I wrote in a recent paper for my classes at school. This is the paper I wrote and turned in.
The problem of homelessness has increased over the years in the state of Oregon, as it has in the United States. There are myths surrounding this epidemic casting stigmatizing shadows on those who are homeless. One such shadow according to Free People (2014) “All homeless people are mentally ill or substance abusers”. This is not true. While there are those who are mentally ill or actively abusing substances, only “about a quarter of homeless people are mentally ill, and about 40% are alcohol or substance abusers. “ Free People, (2014) Oregon lacks rental assistance programs and affordable housing, this is a partial cause of homelessness. According to the Eugene Community Task Force on Homelessness report, “The poor and often unhoused in Lane County struggle to survive; oppressed and criminalized by an overwhelmed and often times unresponsive system. While there are many organizations, individuals, and government entities working hard to highlight and deal with this problem, Occupy Eugene brought into a sharper focus the gaps between those in need of help and services available to them. It’s not just those living under bridges who are struggling to survive. Our economy is severely depressed and this is affecting all of us. Foreclosures are at record levels and living wage jobs are very hard to find. This gloomy economic picture may extend well into the future and impact severely the younger generation.”
Working with mentally ill persons does not mean an end to homelessness or admitting more mentally ill people to institutions. It does mean that there can be a significant difference made in getting the help needed for those who struggle with mental illness and homelessness. Collaborating with companies currently in the business of assisting mentally ill persons to obtain housing would mean more available funding for outreach services. Outreach would assist in meeting a goal for the clinic by allowing the extension of services to those who are unable to come to the clinic. This increases accessibility to needed counseling services. Partnering with a local builder of tiny homes, or a school construction program allows for more homes to use less space, and considering that Eugene Water and Electric Board has moved from their large facility in Eugene, this area could be leased for this purpose. Collaboration of such resources reduces the cost of such a project borne by companies involved in such a project.
Substance abuse and mental health centers reports that in Oregon that in 2014 there were 5,891 persons living in homeless shelters and 1,664 with other forms of living situations. Free people reports that approximately 3,500 of the homeless are in Lane County. This is more than half of the homeless population of the entire state of Oregon. While many programs exist to assist the homeless in many cases, the funding for such programs does not and for mentally ill persons it can be more difficult to find affordable housing. Wait lists for subsidized housing are long and some go back as far as 2010 with clients waiting for housing.
Currently there is one such community in Eugene called Opportunity Village and another planned with the name currently planned as Emerald. Building on such ideas for mentally ill homeless persons and incorporating a counseling center allows greater accessibility to those in the larger community with a need for services and no way to obtain those services.
OVERVIEW OF INTENDED EVALUATION
One question about this project would be “what would be the investment of the clients?’ The answer to this could be that the clients could help to build their tiny homes village. This would give them a sense of accomplishment, worthiness, and investment in their homes. When one works for something, they value it and will take care of it. The village would include a community kitchen area, laundry area, pet area, showers, and bathrooms to be shared within the community and kept clean by those residing in the community.
When services are made more accessible and providers are willing to meet the people where they are services are more likely to be used by those who need them. Providing services through and outreach not only serves to meet a goal of the clinic but also to show that there are people among the homeless, mentally ill who want services, and yet have no way to access them.
Giving the potential residents information about the project and inviting them to come to work on their home would bring in some of the homeless people who currently occupy the various homeless camps around Eugene/Springfield. Allowing them to participate in building their homes and community would make this community uniquely their homes. During this time, counseling services can be offered to those who desire this service. Treatment for substance abuse should be a part of this offering and those who have co-occurring disorders identified. Children of school age could be reenrolled in school and receive some treatment from the school based counselor. . During the course of this project, a survey would be used with questions and blanks for the people to give their answers and opinions and this data would be used to improve the quality of the care and environment of the residents
The results that are expected from this project lower rates of mentally ill persons who cancel appointments due to inability to access the needed services. This number would change because the services are offered on site. Clients are assisted with forms in the first meeting and each subsequent meeting takes place at the client’s home. Appointments are scheduled at the convenience of the client within certain set boundaries for program operation times. Families can be scheduled during these times.
This community is to be temporary transitional housing only as people reestablish themselves and gain the strengths and confidence needed to obtain permanent housing. It is expected that in a second community such as Emerald Village most of the clients will succeed and move forward. A higher enrollment in educational programs for the children and some adults would be one expected result of this project.
The report from the Eugene Taskforce identifies several phases of such a program that should be incorporated into such a program. City approvals and any needed permits need to be written into grants. The city of Eugene states in the final report from that taskforce “Certain homeless members of the taskforce stressed that in addition to shelter, food, and medical care ,an intense need and desire and desire to have dignity through being self-sufficient. This matched nicely with the current lack of funding.” This lack of funding would be alleviated with the collaborative work of the prospective tenants and school programs, and the grants from possible funders such as SAMSHA, crowdfunding through sites such as go fund me can also be used to assist with donations.
From the handbook for the Northwest Christian University Clinic, one stated goal is “Collaborate with community agencies to promote well-being through outreach, prevention, and educational efforts. An outreach such as the one proposed here would meet those goals and provide educational opportunities as a student internship site.
The educational opportunities are further met in the collaborating with construction programs of other schools in order to build the housing for those homeless persons who want to join such a community.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2014) shows on the Behavioral Health Barometer Oregon, 2014 that 53.1% of persons with a serious mental illness received no treatment. This number can be reduced by increasing the outreach programs and providing homeless people with a stable, safe place to live. Programs such as SAMSHA provide some grant funding for projects that are to assist the persons most in need and by accessing such grants for funding, reducing costs by forming alliances with construction programs of other schools and allowing the persons concerned to have a voice in the building and formation of a community. Internships and clinics that are used as practicum sites for students can provide counseling services, in an effort to reduce those costs as well. Community gardens would reduce food costs for the community and give most of the community some responsibility in the daily functioning of the project.