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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Housing for Labor

My role as a provider of health services to homeless men and women does not end the cycle of homelessness. My mission is to provide the best quality health care I can offer to people during a vulnerable time in their lives, whether their non-housed status is chronic or temporary.

Still, my hope for all of my patients is for them to attain safe, stable housing situations. Housing is a huge part of homeless healthcare.

There are many different reasons people become displaced or homeless. Which is why there is no good, solve-all resolution for the problem. But there may be a few approaches that will work on large pockets of homelessness in the US.

An interesting article came my way via Twitter yesterday from the National Coalition for the Homeless.

The full article can be found here. In case you don't have time to read it I'll sum it all up:
In San Jose, there is a community of otherwise homeless people who live intermittently in a tent city near Coyote Creek. They are often asked to clear out. The city organizes a clean up effort (for example, in conjunction with the county jail). Then... they move back in.
But if the US Environmental Protection Agency funds a grant proposed by the city's Environmental Services Department, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and a non profit called Destination: Home, then the creek dwellers may be able to do the clean up work themselves this time, earning housing and job training in the process.
Since my visit to St. Mungo's Nightingale House in London last spring, I have often thought about how important job training and social services are for ending the cycle of homelessness.

The Downtown Streets team, mentioned in the article, has used a similar model to get men and women off the streets of Gilroy, Palo Alto and Daytona Beach in Florida.

Again, because homelessness has so many different causes, the same treatment isn't going to work for all of them. What about elders who can not work? Those who are homeless due to illness or physical disabilities?
Both Richardson and Liccardo say they are fully aware that the program will not end the problem of chronic homelessness, especially for the severely drug addicted and mentally ill.
"We don't pretend that we can save everyone,'' Liccardo said. "But this could be an effective tool in the toolbox."
And I think this is an important thing to note. It's easy to reject ideas because we can see that they don't hold the entire solution within their limits. But when a problem is as multifaceted as homelessness... an entire toolbox full of approaches is going to be absolutely necessary.

Well done, San Jose!

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