So I went to the Annual Training Institute for CCEH yesterday

1297413052706_ORIGINALThat’s CT Coalition to End Homelessness, to you. I’m on the board, and I got there late because I was recording a show for Monday’s “Where We Live” on — yes! — homelessness. Want to hear what we call homelessness is actually a rather recent construct? You can listen here, come 9 a.m. Monday. Click on “Listen Live.” I’m not sure at what time in the hour it’s on, but I don’t think it’ll start precisely at 9:06-or-7, when the show actually starts. But listen anyway!

There were a lot of good workshops, including one that involved my friend, Shawn Lang, on transgender people and their general experience in the shelter system (In a word? I believe the scientific analysis of their experience would be “shitty.” We can do better. We just have to get over our ignorance.) (That’s why I went to that particular workshop, besides heckling Shawn. I’m ignorant.)

But what I will keep in my head was a speech by Iain DeJong, a pony-tailed, take-no-prisoners data geek who said what most of us have known all along: The answer to homelessness? Is housing. And that’s housing with no restrictions, no hoops to jump through. Get ’em housed and then let’s pull in all the other emergency systems that are supposed to feed and job-train and everything else. If we wait for perfection from a person who is homeless, we’re going to be waiting until our teeth fall out.

Housing first. Makes perfect sense.

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8 Comments

  1. Your data geek friend looks a little like Penn Jillette in that photo

    Our supportive housing projects here have been so successful with working poor and young/elderly people, local advocates are stepping up work on proposals to build housing for the chronically homeless…regardless of baggage. (Some services will not take folks with substance abuse and mental health problems.) Because of those successes, community leaders…and especially the business community…have tasked advocates to come up with solid proposals sooner rather than later.

    It’s part of, I think, a growing national recognition that housing first works…for everybody. Waiting for the economy to repair to some sense of normalcy can no longer be an option.

    1. I thought the same thing, and then I sat maybe 10 feet from the stage, and continued to think the same thing.

      The whole issue with getting people clean and sober doesn’t work — it doesn’t work, as Fake Penn Jillette said yesterday — with the rest of us who are housed. We still drink. We still use drugs. Why are we asking sainthood of the extreme poor?

      1. That is exactly what advocates here have brought to the conversation since a newly built shelter managed by a charity non-profit decided to deny access to clients with too much (obvious) baggage. Safety concerns must be addressed. No argument there. But it has to be done in a way that gives folks with substance abuse and mental health problems a safer and healthier alternative than the street. Or the woods. An alternative that provides opportunities to access to the same type of community support available to the housed.

        Community leaders and businesses have voiced a willingness to partner with advocates and non-profits to develop a project that everyone can live with. They’ve taken an estimated ten year project and shortened it to two years. “How can that happen?” you may ask. Because housing first saves money. Ooodles of it.

        1. PREcisely. It’s something everybody can get behind, no matter their politics.

      2. As I understand it, clean and sober is a lifelong struggle. It really shouldn’t be linked to meeting basic needs. Treating addiction should be a separate ball of wax. Granted, it can be a huge obstacle to holding a job and achieving independence. However, it sure looks like homelessness is not a deterrent to using if one has to use. I would think the odds of treatment might be better, in fact, if a person is housed and fed and sleeping in a safe place. I bet studies have been done on that.

        1. There are. Housing is the foundation for all good things, in that realm.

        2. Addiction cannot be cured. That’s true. And even though the struggle can abate with time, the addict must remain vigilant, on guard against triggers that can cause a misstep that might scuttle years of sobriety. Intervention and opportunity to access community support is crucial in fostering that kind of vigilance. That’s where housing first becomes such a a valuable asset.

          The first step in turning an addict, especially the chronically addicted, toward recovery is to show them the way out. Hope. An open door. And help. Housing first projects can do that for everybody…regardless of baggage.

          The opportunity for treatment increases exponentially with safe and secure housing.

          Addicts don’t have to use. They choose to use. All addicts face the same choice every day: to use or not to use. Housing first projects, by reclaiming the socially disenfranchised, increases the likelihood the chronically addicted will choose no and sustain that choice over time by giving them the tools they need to continue making good choices. There’s no guarantee. But it works better than just throwing them on a trash heap.

          Love saves. Money, too.

          1. It does make sense. “Hope and Housing” Sounds like a good motto!

            Addicts may choose to use, but some choose it because the withdrawal is so bad. Beyond the psychological addiction, some can have a heavy hook physically. With some addictions, it can be potentially lethal to stop cold turkey after heavy, chronic use (as with alcohol and Benzos). Detox from those drugs and some others (e.g. heroin) should be done under medical supervision, and usually with pharmacological assistance. The thought that addicted homeless people should just go away, get off the drugs on their own, and then come back for help, seems really backwards to me.

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