Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sometimes it is not good to just walk away or be safely independent of the things or people that surround you. There is always one homeless person walking about town or you notice the cardboard and shopping cart dwelling emerging under the bridge but you keep going and go on with your own fragile lives. Don’t worry, it is a tradition that has been going on for years. There is a very unique and new approach to dealing with the homeless that is nothing short of a Santa Clause story. Just give the derelict a home already? No questions asked? And it doesn’t cost anyone much money? Hey Carolyn! Sign up your entire tribe up for this one.

Giving apartments to homeless people who have been on the streets for years before they receive treatments for drug or   alcohol   addictions   or mental illness might not sound like a very good idea but that is what is being done in cities across America in an approach that targets those who have been homeless the longest and who believe to be at greatest risk of dying   to the tune of about 100,000 homes. Especially with all this cold weather everywhere, the need to get the people off the streets us even greater.

It is called the 100,000 Homes Campaign that cities are affiliated with. The goal is to get 80,000 homeless off the streets. Local government and non -profit groups do most of the work. The money comes from mostly existing Federal programs and private donations. Here! Take my wallet just get that homeless mess out of my sight. There is already evidence that this new approach to the homeless is   saving   taxpayer’s money. Putting them in hotel rooms benefits no one and is costly. Like you and I, they need a kitchen and a table to eat and work on too.

Nashville is one of the most recent places to join the 100,000 Homes Campaign. There you can find people living in storage lockers bathing in streams and using the river as their toilet. They are usually people with health problems who have used up all their money paying for doctors and medicines and who now have nothing much but their pre-existing health ailments. There is a non-profit called Open Table Nashville that keeps track of the drifters. They help identify the homeless according to the highest risk of death due to their living conditions and addictions and general health.

For the homeless it is like winning the lottery. In just one day they can be off the streets and into a clean apartment living on their own just like anyone else.  The shelter life has been a disaster for many people as well. Until fairly recently a homeless person would have to go through bureaucratic   hoops to treatments to job training programs to blah blah in order to just hope to get  regular housing. This is an approach that originated in New York where the housing was given first and then the regular visits to get these people into rehab or getting them  employment  or medicine or whatever they need in life that has failed them to get them feeling hopeless and a disaster in  hygiene and thoughts.

Community Solutions is a group who thought up and created the 100,000 Homes Program. Most of the 600,000 homeless people on the streets at night are on the streets for a relatively short amount of time, usually less than a month. It is the chronic cases that they focus on. The people who have not found a better solution for living on their own, the people who have been on the street for more than a year. So, don’t show up asking for a free apartment because you missed a payment on your BMW, wait till you lose everything and then sit in your own feces for a   year.     Sigh!

Burn all your bridges of friends and relatives. Wait till there is no one who will let you spend the night on their couch. Then you are ready for this kind of help. More than 60% per cent of the chronically homeless have drug or alcohol addictions. Thirty per cent suffer from severe mental illness.  Many of these people have such severe health problems that it costs taxpayers more to leave them on the streets. 

The inability to take care of your basic health care needs means ending up in emergency rooms  and ending up in inpatient hospitalizations . Spending one night in a hospital costs just as much as a month’s rent in a basic one bedroom apartment in a modest neighborhood. Being indoors will also prevent them from getting illnesses due to the harsh elements of the outdoors.

People with military backgrounds are recruited to seek out the homeless and interview them and see if they are willing to be helped. They proceed with caution like in a war zone because you just don’t know what the reaction will be of someone who has resigned to lead such a harsh life. The fully furnished free apartments are funded by the Federal Government. No new tax dollars are being put into place to fund the homes. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that when homeless people in Phadelphia had homes 80 per cent stayed and flourished in their new homes.

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