Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day- 45 Homelessrob Would Reather Not Be In A Shelter

A little bit ago I asked for something to write about on Twitter. This is the topic that was suggested to me: government spending on permanent housing vs. emergency shelter funding for the homeless. Which $$ is better spent?

I hope I do well!

A few days ago I was at a church having my day-lunch. I saw a woman who was volunteering there asking some homeless people if they had any interest in a "cold weather shelter". The church was about to invest in one.  All the homeless people she asked said "no".  It was almost as if they thought they were not going to get cold this winter. They had no interest. I had to think about this a little. I came up with a few reasons why a homeless person wouldn't want a shelter.

First, besides asking for spare change, homeless people often do not want to burden anyone. They don't! They need to burden others sometimes in order to survive, but often they feel bad for it. Asking for help is humiliating. To come out and say "hey, I'm homeless, can you please help me" is not easy to do and sometimes the "F### U###" they receive for asking comes as way of being spit upon. I have seen this.

Second, homeless people are "conditioned". What I mean is that when this group of homeless people was asked if they wanted help staying warm, I think the first or second thought in their head was "why, I've been through the cold before - I will do it again!"

Last, because they were offered a shelter in the first place. Homeless people do not care for shelters. Shelters are usually bad places. They are hard to get into and they smell bad. They are full of bugs, diseases and other things you don't want on you. Your stuff will get stolen (sometimes by staff members) and fights break out. I'm willing to bet that if you ask 100 homeless people were they felt safer and would rather be...... a shelter or a jail.... 70% of them would say jail. Shelters don't have much to offer the homeless, that's the truth! Homeless people will use a shelter but usually don't want to for these reasons.

Me, I have a tent and a sleeping bag. I day labored for 3 days to make that happen. But I'm glad I did. I have my tent stashed way back in the brush on a wild life reserve. I don't care for the animals I hear all around me at night, but I'd rather deal with that than be peed on in the middle of the night because I stayed in a shelter. I'm sure I'll have a few cold mornings this winter but I'll survive. Its a no brainer for me. Tent or shelter? I'll take the tent!

So, as for the topic at hand - Which is better and which should be funded?

In my opinion the shelters should be funded. I'll explain why.

Lets say you drop $20,000 into a homeless housing project. Now that project can build a $20,000 home for a family of 4. Good for you! You are awesome! You are someone who makes the world go around! From the bottom of my heart - Thank You! You have just moved a family out of poverty. BUT, you still have one problem: will that family stay off the streets? MMMMMM interesting! You see, before anyone can truly overcome homelessness there has to be some self-change. Remember, homelessness comes in spells sometimes. What didn't work for me before I became will homeless will not work for me now, either. Does that family you just drooped 20 grand on understand that? Are they making life changes? Or did you just give them a free ticket, a free pass for the moment?

Now, lets say you take that same 20 grand and drop it into a shelter. Then that shelter does things to improve the lives of the people. They open a computer lab for work searching. They add a few beds. They add a few showers. They have money now to start a bus pass program. They get some phones. They hire some volunteer staff members that are interested in helping the homeless instead of babysitting the homeless. There is a big difference between the two. They have money to promote more and ask for donations. They add resources that help homeless people get off the streets. Now all of a sudden you have a shelter that homeless people are interested in.

OK, now you ask me "well, homelessrob, what about the self change?"

I'll tell you this: Any homeless person who works towards becoming not homeless is showing self change. How would they if you just give them a home?

So, my answer to the question at the top of this post is ....shelters. Invest in the shelters we have now. Make them more homeless friendly. Make then less of just a place to get a nap and more a place to have all the resources you need to get off the streets. That's what we need. Help build up a shelter and you will see that homeless people who don't want to be homeless anymore will use it more.

And for you, the investor, just understand this: instead of taking a family of 4 off the streets completely you are helping several people with families get off the streets instead.

Once again, these are just my opinions and scattered thoughts! If you get mad about what I'm saying then I'm sorry about that. on the other hand, maybe it's GOOD if you get a little angry! I say that because at least you're thinking about what I'm saying and talking about it. When we start thinking and talking..... we start fixing!

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1 comment:

Maureen said...

This is my favorite article so far Rob.