Engaging Communities to Dramatically Reduce Homelessness
Positive behavior should be rewarded with increased responsibilities and more privileges. Privileges such as higher quality sleeping arrangements, more privacy and elective learning opportunities should be used as rewards. It is important that these rewards be used as tools to approximate the real world in order to increase sustainable reintegration into society.
External activities such as “street feeding” must be redirected to support the transformation process. In most cases, these activities are well-intended efforts by good folks, however these activities are very enabling and often do little to engage homeless individuals. Street feeding programs without comprehensive services actually increase and promote homelessness. Street feeding groups should be encouraged to co-locate with existing comprehensive service programs.
In order to increase success, all services within a service area must be e-integrated. Virtual e-integration improves coordination of services, enhances performance, reduces gaming of the system, engages individuals on the margin of society, and increases cost efficiencies within and between agencies. Furthermore, whenever financially possible, services should be co-located. Co-location goes beyond virtual e-integration by increasing the number of “service hits” into a shorter period of time through the reduction of wasted time in transit and minimization of mishandled referrals. Co-location also increases the supportive “human touch.”
Too often there are no consequences for negative behavior. Unfortunately, this sends a message that bad behavior is acceptable. Within the transformational process, it is critical to have swift and proportionate consequences.
Homeless individuals must be engaged and no longer enabled. Everybody within the services delivery system (eg general public, media, elected politicians, appointed officials, boards, staffs/volunteers of service agencies and most importantly the homeless themselves) must embrace a culture of transformation. A transformative culture positively fosters individual transformation and reintegration into society. For moral and fiscal reasons, homelessness must become an unacceptable condition that is not tolerated in the USA.
Unearned tax-free cash is very enabling and does not engage homeless individuals in job and skills training which are needed to end homelessness. Additionally, most often cash is not used for food and housing but rather for drugs and alcohol which further perpetuates the homeless cycle. Homeless individuals who are panhandling should be engaged in the transformational process. Furthermore, many panhandlers are not truly homeless individuals but are predators of generous citizens.
Because there are so many different service agencies helping homeless individuals (eg government at multi-levels, non-profits and faith-based), it is critical that ONE person coordinates the services an individual receives and to do so in a customized fashion. The types of service provided are critical, but more important is the sequencing and frequency of customized services.