Friday, August 19, 2016

What Does NOT Cause Homelessness? (Oh, and What DOES?)

At the meeting held by Council Members Gates, Kleinman and McGough earlier this month, Cindy J. Crain, our President and CEO, touched upon what does not cause homelessness[1]. This is an extremely important point to elaborate on, as it is frequently misunderstood. The “noise” created by this misunderstanding takes up much “bandwidth”, that could and should go into what does cause homelessness. After all, even the sharpest archer will find it hard to hit a target, if she can’t even see it.

So, what does not cause homelessness? 

Now, you may believe, nay there is evidence, that poverty is bad for society, that there is not enough affordable housing, that substance abuse causes problems, that folks with mental illness need help, and that faith has positive influences in people's lives. True, but that still does not negate the truth of each of the bullet points above. 

So, what does cause homelessness?

Most of us will never become homeless because of the fact that we can and would lean on our network of social connections. Our families, friends and social groups would be there for us to call on. The facts are that homelessness occurs when this network of social connections breaks down, and can no longer be activated. 

The way we solve this problem is to put in place a homeless response system, that steps into the gap created by that breakdown, and ideally helps rebuild it too. That is why the focus of Opening Doors, the national strategic plan to end homelessness, is on developing in every community an effective and unified homeless response system. That is the only thing that will make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring.

[1] Cindy’s remarks and this piece draw upon ideas we have learned from our good friend, Dr. Iain De Jong.

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