The Rising Crisis of Homelessness: How top-down policies create the churn of dependency
Through the first decades of the 21st century, chronic homelessness found its foothold on the West Coast of the United States. The health and housing crises of the 80s and 90s had left their mark on society, and left thousands wandering the streets of California—wondering where they would spend the night.
Photographer Jae Hong traveled down the west coast in 2017 to talk with chronically homeless individuals to learn their stories and the ways they fell into The Churn of dependency.
Hong met a man named Moi in Los Angeles who had been homeless for about four years. Moi was one of many in his homeless community who was trying to overcome addiction while unemployed. He didn’t accept any public assistance and just hoped no one would bother him.
Another man—a veteran named James—chatted with Hong at a tent in Hollywood. James was evicted from his apartment when his AIDS medication stopped working and the ensuing depression led to him losing his job. He spoke of the violence and theft he had experienced on the streets, but still, he remained hopeful that he could one day have housing and stability again.
There are nearly a dozen stories like Moi’s and James’ from Hong’s journey through California, and they represent just a fraction of the tens of thousands of people experiencing homelessness across the state.
In Los Angeles County alone, nearly 17,000 people are unsheltered and the vast majority of them are considered chronically homeless. This number is expected to rise over the next several years, especially among those over the age of 65. While there are homeless communities everywhere in the United States, nearly 30 percent of everyone experiencing homelessness in the U.S. is in California. This state also contains over half of the entire population of unsheltered homeless individuals—those who live on streets or encampments outside of shelters.
Homelessness is a current, urgent, nationwide crisis—and in 2020, its epicenter was in California.
Solutions for Change’s headquarters in North County San Diego position us to face the homelessness crisis head on, with intentional, therapeutic strategy to lift people from their vulnerabilities to a life of productivity, self-sufficiency and freedom. As we witness the continuing rise of chronic homelessness, we feel a responsibility to change our community for the better through our services and skills. Homelessness is simply a side effect when root causes are not addressed.
At Solutions for Change, we build our approach to the Churn of dependency from decades of transformational impact. We address the key issues like addiction and lack of skills, antithetical to current remedies that don’t work.
Through our understanding of the current top-down policies that don’t work, we get down to the roots of each individual’s struggle that results in homelessness. We’ve learned that solving this crisis is not as simple as giving someone housing. We must help them with the personal, economic, and employment skill development to heal as an individual, retain employment, support their families, and secure housing.
Solutions Academy, is a 700-day, life-transforming program, that gives our residents valuable job experience, the resources to overcome addiction and trauma, and preparation for the financial and social responsibilities of living totally independently.
California, and the nation in general, do need far more affordable housing options. But we can’t expect a shelter to create meaningful, lasting change. We must help those experiencing homelessness gain the skills, resources and health necessary to rise above their circumstances. No one can solve homelessness in America overnight, but Solutions for Change will lead the charge for innovative, permanent solutions.
San Diego County, our home base, has the fourth largest homeless population in the country. We can see the urgency of the homelessness crisis right in our own backyard, and it has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Homelessness and addiction leave people vulnerable to disease with weakened immune systems. And it is impossible to shelter in place when you have no shelter to begin with.
While the situation seems dire, Solutions for Change is driven by a higher purpose to create Overcomers. Homelessness can be overcome. Our clients are the proof. We believe in our programs and we believe in the strength of our clients. The Churn is powerful, but driven, empowered individuals can overcome anything.
To learn more about how Solutions Academy helps people rise above homelessness, check out our work and our programs. And look out for our next blog, where real Overcomers share how Solutions for Change helped them break the cycle of homelessness.