Saturday, March 19, 2016

What do the homeless need most of all?

What's the Number One need of the homeless?

At a conference on March 11 in Tukwila, a number of leaders from cities around King County asked that question of three formerly homeless people.

And it's true that the homeless need Housing, and Jobs, and Shelter. Yes, they need those things. They need Showers, and they need Food.

But there are some things missing in that list.

Treat them with Dignity.

This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do. When you recognize that the homeless person you're looking at, the person you're trying to help, is a human being, and you treat them with the Dignity due every human being, something changes in your attitude, and something will change in theirs, too. Treat them with Dignity.

Include them in Community.

The homeless are citizens too. Include their opinions and respect their opinions when creating policy surrounding homelessness. They really are experts on their personal situation and why they're still stuck there. Include them in community.

Let them Participate.

Given the opportunity, most homeless people will seize it and make their own way out of homelessness. Seriously, this is the message that we see in all the data. For example, in Seattle, between a sixth and a quarter (the number depends on who you ask) of the homeless are chronic -- what man providers term "long-term stayers." But think about that. That means that three-quarters to five-sixths are getting themselves out of homelessness before they become long-term stayers! And, to be honest, the long-term stayers, given a reasonable opportunity to get off the streets... will seize it with both hands. So give them the opportunities, and let them participate in their own rehabilitation from homelessness.