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The Churn: Explaining the vicious cycle of homelessness


The Churn: Explaining the vicious cycle of homelessness

When you hear the term “homeless,” what pops into your head? Most people imagine someone bundled up on the street asking for spare change, but not much else. They don’t think about the man, woman or child underneath the blanket, what happened for them to end up there or what they’re doing to try and escape the inescapable cycle of homelessness, or what we like to call The Churn.

The Churn is a term we have used for years here at Solutions for Change and refers to the costly, endless cycle that occurs when root causes of homelessness are not addressed (and it’s our mission to stop it).

Explaining The Churn

There are three steps to the Churn which make it especially difficult to escape:


There’s a multitude of reasons why people can end up homeless, such as job instability, mental illness, substance abuse and lack of affordable housing. When people fall on these hard times, they hope it’s a temporary circumstance. But, in reality, it can be extremely hard for families to get back on their feet since most aid programs have several roadblocks and loads of red tape. When hardships are addressed by using handouts, it results in dependency, which in turn creates a victimhood dynamic.


With nowhere else to go, people begin to look for a hot meal and a place for their kids to sleep, but many public assistance programs only offer inadequate, short-term responses for family homelessness. They experience short-lived relief from this assistance until support runs out, leaving many families feeling helpless.

Handouts provide a glimmer of hope for individuals and families suffering from homelessness because it provides a sense of relief. However, that feeling is only temporary and it can be easy to become dependent upon.


Once people are sucked into this cycle, it can seem impossible to escape as they get swept up in the cycle of victimhood, handouts and pain. The Churn is a costly, futile cycle that occurs when the reasons of homelessness are not addressed, causing it to repeat.

Anyone can get sucked into The Churn and in the hardest times, escape can seem futile for the person experiencing it.  And because chronic homelessness is costly due to increased interactions with police, courts, prisons and hospitals, it can also seem futile for organizations trying to combat it.

Without a solid solution, or a transformational change, The Churn of homelessness is relentless and will continue to prevail for generations to come.

Breaking the Cycle

So, how can we help? Although The Churn drags people down, it is possible for the cycle of poverty and homelessness to be broken—but it will take sweeping change. Reducing barriers to education, providing a stable environment or supportive housing and giving resources and opportunities that allow people to become financially independent is a great start. Many people WANT drug-free housing, accountability-based recovery services and the opportunity to work!

Here are some ways you can help at the ground level:

  • Fundraise  
  • Donate food, bedding and clothes 
  • Advocate for more social and affordable housing 
  • Contact your local government about homelessness and housing 
  • Volunteer your time with an established nonprofit, like Solutions for Change

At Solutions for Change, we don't view the individuals who are on the streets as victims, rather as victors—Overcomers. We know they can fight The Churn by solving root causes, which in turn saves their families, their health and their happiness. Our Overcomers crush The Churn by meeting life's biggest challenges head on, addressing the root cause of their dependency, and acquiring the skills and knowledge to change their lives permanently in the face of today’s homelessness crisis.