Friday, April 3, 2009

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Genius or NIMBY?

Hawaii has unorthodox plans to help control homelessness in the 50th state:

Plan would buy airfare to send Hawaii homeless to mainland
Honolulu Advertiser, January 25, 2009

Homeless service providers are supporting a proposed state-funded program that would provide airplane tickets for people who have come to Hawai'i from the Mainland and then find themselves homeless — and stuck.

State Rep. Rida Cabanilla, chairwoman of the Housing Committee, said she plans to ask for $100,000 this legislative session for a pilot program that would fly people who have recently arrived from the Mainland and are now homeless back to where they came from.

Relocating to Hawaii seems like an exotic idea. Who wouldn't want to live somewhere that feels like a permanent vacation? But because the cost of living is expensive and jobs are scarce which can result in homelessness. As much as 19% of the shelter population in Hawaii were in the state for a year or less before finding themselves homeless. As a result, Hawaii is funding programs that provide individuals who find themselves homeless soon after their arrival with a plane ticket home.

Other states employ similar techniques but it seems more extreme in Hawaii because the state is so isolated. When I first read this article I thought that it sounded like an obvious case of Not In My BackYard Syndrome (NIMBY) but now I'm not so sure. They only offer the tickets to people who want them and they make sure that services are in place wherever home is before sending someone away. For those who will return to family and friends, or service providers, who know them and care about them this ticket could be the ticket out of homelessness.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Boston Homeless Census

Tonight I made the pilgrimage downtown for the Boston Homeless Census. All communities that receiving funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the Continuum of Care (CoC) need to conduct an annual "census" of people who are experiencing homelessness. It consists of literally counting every person in the streets (and shelters submit their numbers too) on a given night, usually in January.

My partner and I didn't find a single person in our assigned area, but I still didn't consider the evening a waste of time. My partner had 15 years of experience working with youth in the city of Boston. I learned about how the Department of Youth and Families responds to gang violence, conflict resolution, and treatment of the family (not just the individual). It was a great learning experience; much more valuable than adding tick marks to our sheet.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

When goodby is the absence of goodbye

Tonight I found out that "Will,"* one of my favorite guys at CASPAR (the shelter where I volunteer weekly), hasn't been around lately because he got housing. Of course I'm glad that he got housing but I'm reminded of why it stinks to be a volunteer and not a full time staff.

As a volunteer I never really get to know these guys (and some gals). I'm only there one day a week so even though I develop rapport it's only surface deep. I often can't tell when they are making up stories to pull one over on me. Tonight one told me that he had a partial lobotomy when he was 26, staff confirmed that this wasn't true but I believed it for a good 15 minutes.

When Will told me he was going to get an apartment I figured that some optimistic caseworker was putting silly ideas in his head. Turns out that the optimistic caseworker was right and I never had a chance to say goodbye.

I'm truly going to miss him, he was at the shelter the whole year and four months that I've been going there. Every week he'd tell me my eyes were so blue with such curiosity that I am certain that he doesn't remember the majority of our conversations. He was inappropriate enough to make me blush but not so bad that I was truly uncomfortable. And he had great stories. I'll miss him but I don't know if he ever even knew my name.

*Name changed to protect confidentiality

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tour of the Boston Rescue Mission

This weekend I had the opportunity to tour The Boston Rescue Mission (BRM) with Boston Cares. The shelter began in 1899 and is one of the oldest in Boston. Services available at BRM are extensive, including men's and women's recovery-focused programs, a halfway house, meal programs, and a women's re-entry program. We got to see the space that houses several of the services and the Saturday morning outreach in the Boston Common. The outreach was probably the most interesting part, BRM sets up a table in the Common and hands out hot food to anyone who wants it. By the time we got there a line had already formed and there was another group handing out clothing from tables nearby. I'm sure I've been in the Common on Saturday mornings before but this weekend I saw it in a new light.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Health Care for the Homeless

I'm at the Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) conference in Phoenix AZ. I'm learning a lot and doing some fantastic networking but all of this excitement gets me hyped up and gives me all kinds of energy which I would really like to get out in a run but I'm meeting co-workers for dinner at 6:30 and it's currently 5:55.

Last year was the first time that I came to this conference. At the time, I had been at my job for just under six months and I was incredibly overwhelmed by the conference. It made me realize how little I really knew about the homelessness world even after a half year of working in the field. This year has been a completely different experience; I can read through the list of sessions and know what they all mean, I'm seeing people that I know and people who I have emailed back and fourth with, and I have interesting and provoking questions to add to the conversations. There are still moments that make me feel like I know nothing at all but they are few and far between.

I can't wait to get back and apply what I'm learning to my work... and go for a run.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Project Homeless Connect: Beyond a One Day Event

Project Homeless Connect is a one day one-stop-shop model for persons experiencing homelessness. The idea of a "one-stop-shop" and "no wrong door" is something that you often hear about in homeless services and Project Homeless Connect is an embodiment of this idea. It brings community leaders come together to bring services, from housing to haircuts to ids to giveaways, together in one place. There have been more than 300 events in over 170 communities in less than three years. Each event stands alone and is organized by the community in which it takes place. It's so cutting edge that they are using videos on YouTube to spread the word:

One of the major criticisms of Project Homeless Connect is that it is a ONE DAY one stop shop. It would be impossible to bring together all of these services in the career-fairish way that Project Homeless Connect does on a daily basis but there are some programs that are beginning to try to deliver a breadth of services with one point of entry.

For the City's Homeless: A One Stop Center
Mercury News, May 17, 2008
[Christine Burroughs] described how the new operation would work for an estimated 7,000 chronically homeless folks in the county and thousands more in danger of losing their homes. Caseworkers would determine their housing needs, physical and mental health, and qualifications for government, insurance or other financial assistance. The next step would be to help them apply for benefits and services.