Join the Fight to Solve Root Causes
Written by: Dennis Bone, Executive Vice President
Homelessness is a symptom that can be treated and solved, not a condition to be contained and managed. Symptoms are negative impacts that arise when root causes are not being addressed properly and resolved in positive ways. The symptoms tell you that something deeper needs to be addressed, treated and changed. This important dynamic is often experienced in terms of physical health; yet we also experience this in terms of community and societal health.
By addressing symptoms alone, you may get temporary relief, but you usually will not solve the underlying issue or problem. If your doctor addressed the negative symptoms of your health by only giving you things that temporarily relieve your pain without addressing the cause, you could rightly claim malpractice. When you treat the symptom of homelessness simply and only by giving that person temporary relief through housing, health care, food, money, needles, hugs, etc.; without properly addressing the root causes of their homelessness, you are committing malpractice.
The Federal government has legislated and mandated a system of malpractice when it comes addressing the symptoms of homelessness in our society. This misguided and ineffective system operates under the name “Housing First.” Housing First has been implemented and mandated by state and local governments throughout our country. It is no accident that the impacts of homelessness have grown exponentially over the past several years, especially down the west coast and in our bigger cities. The government’s answer to homelessness is to spend hundreds of millions of your taxpayer money on symptom relief, without addressing the root causes.
The foundation of this government system is to provide the homeless with free or highly subsidized housing, with no requirements to address the root causes that led to a person or family becoming homeless. This includes those who have substance abuse addictions, mental health concerns, trauma, unstable or no employment, and any other causative factor. Once the individual or family is given housing, there is no requirement to gain employment or stay sober in order to continue living in this taxpayer housing. It sounds crazy, but it is true. Homelessness is a multi-million dollar business that continues to fail its customers, as well as the public that invests in it.
As someone who has worked with thousands of individuals and families that have experienced homelessness for a variety of reasons, I know that this is not what the majority of homeless want or need. What they want and truly need is compassion, hope, accountability and change. They need to know and believe they have dignity and are worth being invested in, not given another handout or transaction that leaves them still needy and broken tomorrow. Putting someone behind a door or in a house because they are homeless, rarely, if ever provides them with what they need to solve the issues that made them homeless
This “one-size-fits-all” system harms the most vulnerable by treating people as victims, stripping them of their dignity, and depriving them of the necessary support and accountability that can equip and empower them to use and develop their God-given abilities. There is absolutely nothing compassionate about this system. Churches, faith centers, businesses, city councils and non-profits that embrace these government policies are complicit in a system that is growing homelessness and hurting communities.
At Solutions for Change, we have listened to and learned from thousands of people who have come to us over the past two decades, stuck in this churn of symptom relief and a system of dependency that does not have homeless person’s best interest in mind. Many have embraced Solutions for Change, a model that treated them with dignity and respect, with the intention to empower them through coaching, education, employment, recovery, accountability and community. Solutions for Change helped them overcome root causes, in order to positively change the trajectory of their lives and the lives of their children.
Solutions Overcomers are now fighting for other human beings like them, who are struggling with the same root causes they did, in order to help them too get out of a dysfunctional system that claims to help, yet often hurts people through flawed policies and unintended consequences. Policies that allow the homeless to stay unhealthy and unproductive is destructive, and it enables the cycle of homelessness and dependency to continue.
Together, we are fighting for the dignity and the lives of the most vulnerable among us, so the least of us can become the best of us. We invite you to join this fight, because it starts with you, and the people who care in our communities, to change the way we see and act on homelessness.