The Homeless Youth: Their Advantages and Disadvantages
When people think of homelessness, they tend to think of the individuals that are homeless are considered a weird subculture. This is not the case, according to Jena who was our community partner. Jena deals with the homeless each and every day as part of her job. She told me, “Our clients are mostly uneducated, without resource, without support systems, and without knowledge”. The majority of the clients that Jena works with are individuals who are on the verge of losing their home. After speaking with Jena, I told her it would be good to help these individuals with their knowledge, and somehow put them in education interventions that will help them increase their understanding of what it would be like to be homeless, and without a home. If these individuals can have the proper resources, and education; their outcome may turn out differently, rather than ending up in some shelter.
After reviewing several articles, it has come to attention that it would be wise to start up educational interventions, as well as interventions for mental and physical illness. These programs will help provide individuals with resources they need to overcome the bad times, and helping them stay off the streets. This would be an important topic to consider for our community partner, due to the fact that the main reason why individuals are considered “homeless”, or why they may be on the verge of losing their home is because of the lack of resources they have, and the lack of education. The community will benefit from these interventions as well by saving much funding.
The articles contain information mostly on youth and adolescents, as they are the groups that are most at risk of becoming homeless. The articles focus on interventions directed at youth themselves such as; education, employment, social skills training, family-focused strategies, and medical support. The articles suggest that it is good to focus on family-focused interventions, to get a good idea to see if there was some kind of family conflict involved in the cause of the youth’s homelessness. One study found that youth who return home to live with their parents experience more positive outcomes than other youth. This suggests that if the youth were to run away and be homeless, they have a chance for redemption to return to their family, and start a new slate. This will be the best option for the youth that have a supporting family.
For individuals without a supporting family, and might have been rejected, or abused, the family-focused intervention may not work. In addition to the youth’s various resource needs, many of them lack what may be considered “basic life skills”. They may not understand how to prepare a meal, clean the house, manage time, or budget. These skills are essential to life if they want to succeed in the real world. The articles assumed that youth with social skills would experience less conflicts during and after their shelter stay. School based interventions are also an excellent opportunity to help assess and address the many needs of the homeless youth. Teachers with the proper training, and mental health advisors help administer classroom and small group interventions. They also provided individual counseling, and parents were offered parenting classes. According to the article, after the intervention results showed that parents reported a significant decrease in behavior problems among their children. Another study found positive results for a classroom behavioral management system in which the teacher used bracelets to reinforce positive behavior among homeless elementary school children.
These interventions that have been previously mentioned offer a great deal to the homelessness youth of the community. Many youth that may be considered homeless all have their own unique differences, and reasons of how they became homeless. With these interventions mentioned in the articles, it has given the homeless individuals an opportunity to better themselves, and re-gain power in their life. In addition to the interventions that focus on the needs of the youth whom are already homeless, other studies have focused on preventive interventions.
For family-focused preventive programs, they focus on support groups for parents, parenting skills classes, and teaching conflict resolution skills. The assumption here is that these preventative programs will lead to improve family relationships, and help prevent youth from becoming homeless in the future. There is a good example of an approach that the article uses to help the homeless. The project is called, SAFE. It is a program operated by Cocoon House in Snohomish County, Washington. Project SAFE provides services to parents and other caretakers who are concerned for their youth’s behavior. Parents or caretakers can call and talk with a therapist who works with parents to help develop a plan of action to determine what community resources are needed to make the plan work. The outcome data has showed this program significantly increased the parents’ ability to help their youth as well as a significant decrease in the youth wanting to leave the home.
Even though preventing homelessness is not a primary goal of employment programs, it is studied that youth and adolescents are less likely to become homeless if they are employed, and self-sufficient. According to one of the articles, several programs funded by the U.S. Department of Labor could be considered preventive interventions. Low income youth that age from 14 and 21 are eligible to receive Workforce Investment Act-funded services if they are having issues completing school, and receiving economic stability. These services will help youth continue their schooling, as well as being employed.
According to what we have learned in class thus far and the textbook; the world of schools, children, families, and communities is fascinating and complex. “Traditional interventions have focused mostly on deficits of the child, or the family, but the more effective programs usually take into account the setting, such as the school climate or the neighborhood, as well as the actors in it” (Moritsugu, Wong, Duffy, 2010). Where children grow up, and the community around them plays an important role when deciding what is best for the child. Researchers can gain an understanding of the child’s background, and find out how that child decides to go on to be homeless. Psychologists recognize how important the early childhood environment really is. Children who grow up economically advantaged tend to have fewer issues in their future than children who grow up disadvantaged. Intervention programs for these young children at risk include quality day care and improvement education programs. “Programs designed to give them an early push they need to later succeed in school are often successful” (Moritsugu, Wong, Duffy, 2010). By starting to help the children at an early age, they can have well-built knowledge, and motivation to fully reach their potential.
The interventions used in the articles relate a lot towards what the textbook has to offer, as well as what we have learned as a class. Project Head Start is an example from the textbook. Head Start programs are programs that include parental involvement, health care, academic pursuits, and so on. This is a great example of what a good intervention should include, as well as how beneficial it will be to the community partner. The youth that are homeless could take advantage of interventions such as these that relate much to the articles. Adolescents can also take advantage of interventions such as these in preventing them to drop out of school, using drugs, or become pregnant. Many of the programs like these that go on to be successful not only try to change the at-risk individual but also make adjustments in the school environment, or the community to better the individual. School violence is another issue, because it seems like it is worse each year within the United States. Appropriate programs and student involvement can also benefit school safety and decrease violence.
The United States youth and adolescents face many stressors in their life. Whether it’s if they are getting along with their parents, building social networks with school and work, or committing violence. There are interventions to help with this kind of deviant behavior. The interventions stated from the articles give good examples of how the youth and adolescents will benefit. Each individual may have their own unique issues, and thus why they may be homeless. With the correct interventions given from the articles, my community partner can gain more knowledge of how to treat her homeless patients.
The new and improved interventions that will benefit the youth will consist of programs that teach them to successfully grow up to be the individual they want to be in the near future. The interventions will consist of educational programs, as well as other medical issues the homeless may have. These will be directed by a group of volunteers, primarily counselors, and therapists who do not mind volunteering. The programs will be offered to youth who are not homeless, homeless, or on the edge of being homeless. These interventions are what the articles are trying to provide to help benefit the youth in each and every way. In one of the articles, the authors state how issues can arise for the youth who do not participate in beneficial interventions. “Homeless youth seem to be at elevated risk for a variety of mental health problems, including mood disorders, suicide attempts, and post traumatic stress disorder (Toro & Fowler 2007). These are some of the issues that the youth may develop if they were to become homeless, and not receive the proper help. These interventions consisting of educational programs will help assist with this issue.
Psychological issues are not the only problems the youth may develop if they were not exposed to educational interventions. “Homeless youth also report engaging in delinquent or illegal activities, including stealing, forcibly entering a household, prostitution, and dealing drugs” (Toro & Fowler 2007). These are just some of the delinquent behavior that may be caused by the homeless youth. Again; educational interventions will help to control this kind of behavior. According to Toro & Fowler; in recent years, homelessness has been a big issue. The federal government has increased funding, as well as other sources that have led to the development of the interventions needed. Many of the interventions for homelessness consists of shelter, and soup kitchens, but as of recently others have been composed of mental health services, alcohol and other drug treatment, and HIV/AIDS risk reduction. These are great interventions to help the homeless youth. Many people feel that the homeless just need to have some food, or a place to sleep, and they neglect to see the fact that there is more to it than just those aspects. With the behavior the homeless may partake in, these interventions will help relieve some of their pain.
In another article, written by Michael Price; he takes the audience into a world of what it would be like to save money by helping the homeless. He notes that research suggests that by helping the mentally ill homeless find permanent housing also helps the society by lowering costs for the future. A 2006 study that was done by the Denver Housing First Collaborative found that the public cost to care for Denver’s homeless was $43,239 per individual annually. Moving these individuals into permanent homes actually reduced the figure to $11,694, saving a thousands and thousands of dollars. The author explains that keeping these individuals off the streets will be a bargain in the long run. This takes it back to the interventions that will be beneficial to the homeless, because they are more likely in stable living arrangements when the programs identify their needs, and help them develop into the individual they want to eventually be.
These articles that I have researched have gave great examples of interventions to provide to the homeless to help keep them off the streets. My community partner will love reading these articles to gain knowledge and information on how to further educate the homeless, and help put them in the right spot. Whether the intervention is mainly for prevention purposes to help the youth understand what it is like to grow up successfully, and not end up in the homeless boat, or an intervention to help the homeless who suffer mental issues as well as physical issues; they are helping them one way or another, and it is better than just leaving them all alone on the street corner.
- Moritsugu, J., Wong, F. Y., & Duffy, K. G. (2010).Community psychology. (4 ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
- Price, M. (2009). More than shelter. Americnan Psychological Association, 40(11), 58. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/12/shelter.aspx
- Slesnick, N., Dashora, P., Letcher, A., Erdem, G., & Serovich, J. (2009). A review of services and interventions for runaway and homeless youth: Moving forward. Child Youth Serv Rev,, doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2009.01.006
- Toro, P. A., Dworsky, A., & Fowler, P. J. (2007). Homeless youth in the United States: Recent research findings and intervention approaches. The 2007 National Symposium on Homelessness Research, Retrieved from http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/homelessness/symposium07/toro/
Combatting Homelessness in Communities
Homelessness is a complex issue in society that is caused by a variety of contributing factors. Some of these factors include the lack of affordable housing, drug and/or alcohol abuse, mental illness, poverty, loss of jobs, disabilities, or lack of housing (JOURNEYS). Another known reason for homelessness has also been fluctuations in the housing market as well as “renting-to-income ratios” (Austen & Pauly, 2012, p. 5). In the past, many attempts of solving the issues of homelessness have failed. A part of the issue of helping the homeless get off the streets is that efforts have often been focused solely on finding affordable housing for the homeless or offering counseling services, when in fact homelessness requires an integration of both affordable housing and the availability of ongoing counseling services that meet the needs of individuals (Sparks, 2010). One example of a program that relied solely on housing is when the Fannie Mae Foundation donated $35 million to create subsidized housing for the homeless in the early 2000’s (Triplett, 2004). The money did not solve the problem of homelessness, since it was not backed up by services for the homeless. Those affected by homelessness cannot be expected to smoothly transition into society by being given a place to live, if their homelessness was caused by mental illness or lack of a support system.
On the other hand, an example of a program that provides a lot of services, but does not provide permanent housing is JOURNEYS in Palatine. This organization provides a variety of services, but only offers one night stays at churches they are affiliated with from October to April. Homeless people who are given counseling, but have no means of attaining a place to live will continue to struggle with finding a place to stay. There is a clear need for intervention programs that integrate both providing those affected by homelessness affordable housing, but also support that will address the issues that may have caused their homelessness in the first place.
JOURNEYS is an organization in the northwest suburbs of Chicago that understands the needs of the homeless and works to provide the homeless population of the northwest suburbs housing and a variety of services to support homeless people with their transition back into society. They provide “psychological services, including mental health counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and housing assistance” (JOURNEYS). JOURNEYS also partners with local churches and places of worship to provide housing and dinner for people who need such services. In the year 2010-2011, the HOPE Center, which is a part of JOURNEYS, served over 26,457 services, and the PADS sites enabled 13,878 people to have a place to spend overnight and provided over 41,232 meals. The organization also enabled 74 people to transition from homelessness back into their communities and prevented 688 people from becoming homeless (JOURNEYS). Although all of the efforts JOURNEYS makes are incredible for the community of the northwest suburbs, there is always room for improvement, and there is always room to find the improved methods of intervention to guide homeless people into finding housing and back to everyday life. Even though JOURNEYS has helped a wide range of people with the services they offer, there are still thousands of people that they have not been successful in getting out of homelessness, which may be an indication of a need for different intervention strategies. Also, JOURNEYS does not have access to permanent housing for its clients, and only offers shelter from October to April. There are still large gaps of time where homeless people may not have anywhere to go for shelter at all and the organization does not provide permanent housing.
Homelessness affects around 3,000 people in the Suburban Cook County Area (JOURNEYS, As cited in Illinois Coalition to End Homelessness). In the northwest suburbs, where JOURNEYS is located, there are 1,300 people that are homeless. These numbers are alarming and are an indication that there is a large population of people that are not receiving the help they need or do not have the means to move out on their own. During the months that JOURNEYS does not provide shelter, May through September, the homeless population in the area can be experiencing extremely hot or cold conditions outside without having anywhere to go. Also, the majority of JOURNEYS clients are poor and therefore cannot afford housing. Therefore, there is an imminent need for methods of intervention to provide the homeless population of the northwest suburbs of Chicago with the supportive services and permanent housing they need to get back on their own feet and be able to live on their own.
Review of Interventions
One method of combating the issue of homelessness applied in King County in the City of Seattle was “the Committee to End Homelessness and the 10-year plan” (Sparks, 2010, p. 1519). The plan was a response to federally mandated 10-year plans that were to be monitored and depending on the results, the plan would be funded according to the plan’s success at minimizing homelessness. The county had 8336 homeless people within a population of close to 2 million people. King County’s 10-year plan called for inclusion and participation of people who were homeless or formerly homeless as key players in the planning process of the 10-year plan (Sparks, 2010). This was a strategy that was meant to help lessen the marginalization of the homeless within an urban space. The plan was aimed at combining shelter with counseling for mental health and employment and drug and alcohol treatment (Sparks, 2010). However, the plan seemed to focus largely on “personal pathologies” of homeless people, rather than providing “structural solutions”(p. 1522). A chart provided with the document about the 10- year plan suggested that only 20% of the single adult population of homeless need affordable housing, while the other 80% would need “supportive housing with moderate or intensive services on site”(p. 1523). Sparks notes that overall, the 10-year plan seemed to follow historical methods of addressing homelessness by assuming that most of the people who are homeless need mental health support, focused much less on housing needs, and was largely motivated by meeting the criteria to get federal funding (2010). Overall, King County’s 10-year plan did not seem to successfully create an intervention method for the homeless individuals in King County, since it put too much focus on mental health issues.
Another intervention method for homelessness employed in Australia focused largely on not having a “one size fits all” method, but instead being sensitive to the area of homelessness the study was focusing on (Neale, Buultjens, & Evans, 2012). Prior to the method discussed in the article, research was conducted in urban areas, but methods of helping bring an end to homelessness in an urban area could not necessarily be applied to the area of interest, which was Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia. Neale et al. (2012) note that the intervention method in Australia wanted to examine limited resources dispersed throughout a large geographical area, the effects of a part-time staff in agencies, and a shortage of funds to pay people who could coordinate services as factors that would influence the ability to address homelessness in this region. The method discussed by Neale et al. largely focuses on “service integration.” Service integration was defined as a connection between various fields, social, health, and education, or sources of financing programs, such as public, not for profit, and private that could join forces to create a variety of services and support for people of all ages and needs (Neale et al., 2012). The authors note that if there are not a lot of people a part of the service integration network, there may be a more difficult time providing services for the homeless (2012). They mention that membership within service integration needs to be extended to people from health, education, employment and legal services, amongst others in order to enable homeless individuals to deal with their lack of housing and factors associated with their homelessness (2012). Through the study on service integration in South Wales, Australia, Neale et al. (2012) concluded that communities need to determine what services are abundant and which ones are scarce by establishing connections with local service providers in the area in order to accommodate the individual needs of the homeless population within each particular community. The creation of a service integrated method of intervention influenced policy changes and execution in non urban areas of Australia, and therefore service integration was found to be a successful intervention method.
Another study conducted in Tokyo and Los Angeles compared various factors that could lead the path away from homelessness, such as social ties, minimum-wage employment, and the presence of recent homelessness (Marr, 2012). The first pathway in Marr’s study in Los Angeles included allies with staff members in organizations that provided supportive services and social ties, and the second pathway was composed of minimum-wage jobs, social ties, and the incidence of recent homelessness. In Tokyo, the ﬁrst pathway focused solely on having a minimum-wage job, and the second pathway did not include an ally with a staff member in supportive services and included the incidence of recent homelessness (Marr, 2012). The results of the study found that essentially the most influential factors on getting out of homelessness were the amount of job opportunities, as well as affordable housing and social ties with staff, family, and friends, while “personal vulnerabilities” had little influence on whether or not a person got out of homelessness when they had the support they needed as well as a job opportunity (Marr, p. 998). It was also found that “personal vulnerabilities” and “lengthy experiences of homelessness” did not prevent people from being able to escape homelessness, which debunks the notion that homeless people become trapped as a result of personal weaknesses ( p. 998). Another finding that was noted as a result of the study is that the abundance of housing and job availability in Tokyo compared to Los Angeles was associated with enabling exits out of homelessness (2012).
Therefore, the study raises the attention to the need of encouraging employment and housing as methods of getting individuals out of homelessness. Organizational ties in Los Angeles did not seem to influence an integral part of getting out of homelessness, because they seemed to be dependent upon the kinds of relationships that homeless individuals built with people they associated with in these organizations. However, it appeared as though trust was seen as an enabling factor in positive organizational ties with homeless individuals ( 2012).
William Triplett offers even more insight onto methods of intervention for homelessness. Triplett affirms that homelessness has been often deemed as an issue of affordable housing, however he notes that it is not the sole cause and solution to homelessness (2004). Triplett asserts that helping combat homelessness starts with addressing the many issues homeless people endured that led them to being on the streets in the first place. He also mentions that there cannot be one solution to helping the entire homeless population, because there are many homeless people with varying dynamics and reasons for why they are homeless. Triplett defines the varying attributes of the homeless when he states that 40 percent of homeless people are families who have children, 30 percent abuse substances, 23 percent have a serious mental illness, 17 percent have a job, and 10 percent are veterans (2004). Triplett also notes that although the government designated $3.2 billion dollars to homelessness, it is not enough to help solve all of the issues impacting homelessness. He points out that another issue of addressing homelessness is that people want affordable housing, but they do not want it in their neighborhoods, in fear of bringing down their home values (Triplett, 2004).
Triplett seems to offer a powerful method of intervention for homelessness when he mentions that Laurene Heybach, director of the Law Project at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, noted that one of the more successful solutions to homelessness has been “permanent supportive housing” (PSH) that address mental health, addictions, and provide a support system. She even mentions that 60,000 of such centers have been opened within the last decade (Triplett, 2004). PSH has been so successful, that one center in New York City helped 90 percent of the people that used the PSH services, made an exit from homelessness with the program’s help. Many people support PSH programs, but often funding is an issue that affects the success and building of more of such shelters. However, a supporter of the PSH programs, Mangano, asserts that such programs will help combat chronic homelessness, which are people who are homeless for longer periods of time. He suggests that once there will be less chronic homeless people, the attention can shift to funding of the rest of the homeless population. Mangano urges cities around the country to create 10- year plans that will work toward ending chronic homelessness, and 117 mayors have already put such plans into place. One city that has been successful at providing homelessness support is Columbus, Ohio. The community in Columbus, Ohio involves community leaders, business owners, and relevant homelessness research to address the issue of homelessness with an effective community approach (Triplett, 2004). The PSH method of intervention seems to be a valid and successful form of homelessness intervention that can be implemented in many communities as long as there is funding. .
All the literature reviewed in this paper seems to contribute some new facts to the information to how communities can approach homelessness. There are factors that can be taken into consideration from each of the methods mentioned in order to create a balanced framework for helping individuals get out of homelessness. Drawing on King County’s 10-year plan, it is important to note that there has to be a balance between housing and services offered. In King County, the focus was much too large on mental health and not so much on the practical details of where the homeless individuals would reside. This is an issue that is also prominent at JOURNEYS. Although places of worship work with JOURNEYS to supply sleeping arrangements at certain times of the year, there are numerous occasions where the homeless population of the northwest suburbs finds themselves sleeping in their friends’ businesses, in parking garages, parks, and around libraries (Jena Hencin, personal communication, September 25, 2013). There needs to be more of a push in the community for affordable housing, as well as a shelter that serves the community year round.
Drawing on the literature written by Neale, Buultjens, & Evans about homelessness in Australia, it can be concluded that the general homeless population can largely benefit from services within their communities that are designed based on the needs of the demographic of that population. Service integration as noted in the homelessness intervention approaches in Australia can also be applied to JOURNEYS. To an extent JOURNEYS already focuses largely on creating ties with businesses that offer various services within the community, however there is always room for more integration in order to supply the homeless population that utilizes their services with more support. JOURNEYS could go out of their way to seek affiliations with businesses that can donate to their cause or could seek relationships with leaders that can have a greater impact on creating affordable permanent housing. Another suggestion could be for JOURNEYS to partner with local schools to ensure that the homeless children in the community are receiving the basic needs they need to thrive in school.
The study conducted in Los Angeles and Tokyo demonstrates the importance of a thriving job and housing market. When given the opportunity to work, homeless individuals can make money, and if housing is affordable they can also have enough money to support themselves. Also the finding of the study demonstrate how important having social support is in the exit from homelessness. Even with other individual difficulties, having a job, home, and social support can keep someone who was once homeless off the streets and put them in a much more stable condition. Although the availability of jobs and affordable housing is not something controlled by organizations that are fighting to end homelessness such as JOURNEYS, something organizations like JOURNEYS can do is lobby for these vital causes and present the research to influential leaders in the area who have an impact on the local job market. Also drawn from the Marr study is that it is vital to have social support in the context of family, friends, and organizational supporters, all who one confide in and build trust with.
The seemingly most successful intervention method mentioned in this paper is the permanent supportive housing mentioned by Triplett. This approach enables those affected by homelessness to have a place to live, while trying to work on the factors that brought upon their homelessness in the first place. JOURNEYS already employs many of the social services mentioned as being a part of a successful PSH program, however it still needs permanent housing that their clients can rely on until they get back on their own feet, which is something that can hopefully be achieved through greater community involvement and understanding of homelessness in the northwest suburbs of Cook County.
Overall, it seems as though the success of any program needs to combine housing with social services. To be able to have such programs, people need to be supportive of such efforts and policy makers have to budget money to enable such programs to exist. Community members also have to be involved in the process of allowing affordable housing in their neighborhoods, and business owners have to be supportive of community efforts to develop centers such as PSH. By employing strategies mentioned in this paper, organizations such as JOURNEYS can make improvements in their programs and can work toward decreasing the homeless population.
Austen, T. & Paulie, B. (2012). Homelessness outcome reporting normative Framework
Systems-Level Evaluation of Progress in Ending Homelessness. University of Victoria,
Victoria, BC, Canada. Sage Publications. 36 (1), 3-33.
JOURNEYS The Road Home. It takes a community. Retrieved from
Marr, M. D. (2012). Pathways out of Homelessness in Los Angeles and Tokyo: Multilevel
Contexts of Limited Mobility amid Advanced Urban Marginality. International Journal Of Urban & Regional Research, 36(5), 980-1006.
Neale, K., Buultjens, J., & Evans, T. (2012). Integrating service delivery in a regional
homelessness service system. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 47(2), 243-261.
Sparks, T. (2012). Governing the homeless in an age of compassion: Homelessness,
Citizenship, and the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness in King County Washington.
Antipode, 44(4), 1510-1531.
Triplett, W. (2004, June 18). Ending homelessness. CQ Researcher, 14, 541-564. Retrieved from
Homelessness in Chicago: Exploring the Intervention Programs
through a Community Lens
Homelessness takes many different shapes and forms, and affects more than a million people each year. Despite the fact that homelessness remains a significant issue in Chicago, many of us continue to turn a blind eye to the struggles of this invisible population that surround us on a daily basis. Many Americans fail to see what truly lies behind the cardboard signs and secondhand clothing, but if they did, they would see that this faceless population is comprised of human beings in need of food and shelter, just like us. Yet, so many Chicagoans fail to see this. Instead, they see the negative stereotypes that surround this population of individuals; fueled by the media and the social stigmas that continue to alienate this group from our communities. It is for these reasons that I have chosen to explore the topic of homelessness as it relates to my community organization, Journeys the Road Home.
This community organization is a network of volunteers, and selfless individuals who truly look past the social stigmas and labels and into the hearts of the homeless. This organization makes it their goal to help individuals become self-sustaining by providing them with multidimensional services and support on their “journey” to success.
This paper will explore the central concept of homelessness and discuss the importance of this topic through a community perspective lens. Furthermore, it will discuss the current epidemiology of homelessness within the Chicago and Northwest suburban regions, and explain how this topic relates with the community organization, Journeys the Road Home. Lastly, this paper will examine the various intervention programs available to these groups in need, and analyze the success rates of these programs.
In order to fully understand this complex social dilemma, it is first necessary to examine the full prevalence of homelessness within Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. Currently the homeless population is immense, and is an ever- growing population. According to the Journeys the Road Home website (2012), there are over 3,000 reported cases of homelessness in all of suburban Cook County. In the northwest suburbs alone, there are 1,200 homeless people in shelters and approximately 400 additional homeless people residing on streets, in cars, and throughout forest preserves. Based on the 2011 National Alliance to End Homelessness, an estimated 14,055 people experience homelessness every night in Illinois. And also according to this site, of these homeless, 15% are veterans, 32% are severally mentally ill, 48% have chronic substance abuse issues, 4% are living with HIV/AIDS, 25% are victims of domestic violence. Although these numbers describe the current scope of those individuals whom are already homeless, these statistics don’t even begin to account for those who are at-risk to becoming homeless. This group comprises another large population that utilizes the services offered at Journeys the Road Home.
Journeys the Road Home is a community organization that provides services to those who are homeless, and those at-risk to becoming homeless within the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. This organization is located in Arlington Heights, and this is the community that is most affected by the homeless population that resides there. The dilemma of homelessness is not one that only affects the homeless individuals themselves; it negatively affects the community as a whole. Research shows that strong communities are comprised of members who feel a strong sense of community. McMillan & Chavis, (1986) stated that a sense of community is thought to be made up of four elements, membership, influence, integration, and a sense of emotional connection. These four elements are important because “if people sense community in their neighborhood, they feel that they belong to or fit into the neighborhood,” (Heller et. Al, 1984, as cited in Moritsugu et al., p. 24 ). However, homelessness in communities contradicts these values by revealing the alienated groups within this community that do not share in this feeling of connectedness.
These gaps within social structure are harmful to both members of the community and the homeless that reside there. In fact, Janet Younger (1995) argues that the homeless suffer from community alienation in two forms. She stated, “Suffering that accompanies adversity is compounded by a suffering of a second type: the loss of community and the sense of connectedness it entails” (cited in Erickson, p. 207).
The central reason homelessness is an important issue within the Arlington Heights community is because it reflects the problems within our preventative strategies, as well as our social blindness to the problem of homelessness within this neighborhood.
Fortunately, there are many services and programs that exist to help the homeless populations, from emergency shelters and housing, to access to food and medications, there are many different types of intervention programs that benefit this group. The intervention programs that will be focused on include The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, The Moving Ahead Program, The Chicago Housing for Health Partnership, as well as Journeys the Road Home.
Review of Interventions
The first intervention program that aids the homeless population is the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. This national organization seeks to prevent homelessness and help those who are currently homeless by impacting legal proceedings, creating new policies that will benefit the homeless population, as well as improving public education by “work[ing] with community-based and national allies to enforce and implement existing legal rights and advocate for new policies and resources to end and prevent homelessness,” (NLCHP, 2012). Other issues they are working to solve include affordable housing shortages, insufficient income brackets, and inadequate social services available to those who need it (NLCHP, 2012). This program also focuses on subsets of the homeless population, such as victimized women, and homeless children. In fact, the NLCHP created the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which provides financial aid to shelters that serve children and families. Although this organization does not provide services directly to the homeless, they are the political agency that is working towards making advances within the macro system that will benefit the homeless as a whole.
The second program that will be discussed is the Moving Ahead Program. The Moving Ahead Program (MAP) is a work-skills training program that is open to homeless participants who have battled with various issues from drug addiction, to mental health problems, and even those with criminal records (Nelson, 2012). MAP works with clients on identifying goals and strengths, practice interview skills, workplace etiquette and professionalism for a 14- week period. At the end of the workshop they place participants in local internships to improve upon the skills they have learned (Nelson, 2012).
The third program that has been providing aid for the homeless population is called the Chicago Housing for Health Partnership (CHHP). This program has helped hundreds of chronically ill homeless people in Chicago by placing them from hospitals into permanent houses. Additionally, this program provides case management services to help these individuals maintain their health and stability for long-term periods (CHHP 2010). The goal of the program is to help homeless individuals that suffer from a multitude of health complications including chronic medical conditions such as AIDS and cancer, as well as those that suffer from addictions and mental illness, while simultaneously cutting down on governmental medical expenses (CHHP 2010). Since its initial beginnings as a research study, this program has since grown into a permanent program in Chicago that works with 15 different social services, housing and medical agencies and provides more than 500 permanent housing units to homeless people suffering from medical ailments (CHHP 2012). This program has shown to be effective in reducing medical treatments, but evidence shows that this intervention has also been effective in preventing the spread of chronic diseases such HIV and AIDS.
The last intervention program that will be reexamined more in- depth is the community partner, Journeys the Road Home. This organization, as previously stated, provides a large array of services to those who are homeless, as well as those who are at risk of becoming homeless. Journeys provides their clients with hot meals, showers, clothing, canned goods, and mail delivery. In addition, the trained clinical staff and case managers at Journeys provide drug and alcohol counseling, mental health counseling, and housing assistance (Journeys, 2012). Furthermore, Journeys has collaborated with PADS and 19 local churches within suburban Cook County to ensure that all homeless individuals have a safe place to sleep overnight.
Though all of these programs are aimed at helping the homeless, they each are characteristically different in their approaches, additionally many intervention programs are shown to be either successful or not so successful based on a program’s ability to successfully utilize resources, and address the problem of interest.
In examining the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP), it is clear that this program works at the macro system level––it aims to prevent and help stop homelessness through legal policies, rather than helping individuals directly, this is considered a second order change because it is aimed at changing the system directly. Additionally, this program applies primary prevention by making strides towards better education systems for youth, which may then prevent adolescents from dropping out of school, a significant risk factor for becoming homeless. “Homelessness is such a pervasive problem in our communities. Education is the one sure way for young people to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness in their families. Our Children & Youth Program breaks through these barriers and equips children's advocates with the tools needed for educational advancement,” (NLCHP, 2012).
The NLCHP is also comprised of secondary and tertiary level prevention strategies as well, through their advancement in housing policies, including foreclosure policies and income subsidies for those who need them. These strategies may prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place, because of additional financial support and affordable housing. Therefore, I feel as though this program is accomplishing what it set out to do, which was to meet the short-term and long-term needs of the homeless and poor in America, in hopes of eventually stopping this problem altogether.
However, the downfalls of this program are rooted within its deficiency-based perspective. Within this perspective, “they [populations] are noted for their deficiencies and needs. This view is accepted by most elected officials who codify and program this perspective through deficiency-oriented policies and programs . . . They[low-income neighborhoods] see themselves as people with special needs to be met by outsiders. And gradually, they become mainly consumers of services with no incentive to be producers,” (McKnight, 1996, p.1). Perhaps the NLCHP could incorporate some asset-based incentives within their programs services as well, aimed at adults who are at-risk for becoming homeless, such as education programs.
The second program previously mentioned, the Moving Ahead Program (MAP), which has been developed for homeless, or at risk adults with mental health problems, drug history or crime records, has shown to be very successful in helping these individuals become self-sustaining and independent. Nelson (2012) stated, “After MAP, guests reported improvements in health, substance use problems, legal situation, housing, and self-esteem and self-efficacy, in addition to their gains in employment and income. Upon graduation, the percent of guests reporting serious health problems declined from 45.3% to 35.1%” (p. 720).
The reason this intervention program was so effective was probably due to the ways in which the participants’ assets and skills were utilized. Through this asset-based program, participants were no longer self-fulfilling prophecies of societal labels or stigmas; they became empowered through their newfound knowledge of what they could accomplish. Mcknight (1996) restates this, stating, “Identifying the variety and richness of skills, talents, knowledge, and experience of people in low-income neighborhoods provides a base upon which to build new approaches and enterprises,” (p. 4).
In addition to the NLCHP, and the Moving Ahead Program, is the Chicago Housing for Health Partnership Program. This program began as a research program in 2003 implemented by the Collaborative Research Unit of Stroger Hospital and the Cook County Bureau of Health to study the number of hospital and emergency room visits, as well as nursing home visits using two groups of homeless. The first group included individuals who received permanent housing from the CHHP, and the second group was comprised of those who received “’usual care,’ a piecemeal system of emergency shelters, family and recovery programs,” (CHHP, 2012). Results from this study confirmed that this “housing first” treatment model was indeed successful. In fact, participants that were housed in permanent housing were overall healthier, and used one-third fewer impatient hospital visits, than those individuals who relied on the usual care system. This program has also shown to be effective in reducing HIV levels, which could therefore, prevent this disease from spreading. According to Buchanan, Kee, Sadowski and Garcia (2009), the median HIV viral load was 87 percent lower in the groups living in the housing provided by the CHHP, in comparison to those relying on other systems.
The reason this program has been widely successful is because of its primary focus on medical care at the community level, rather than at the individual level. Clearly health issues surrounding a population don’t simply arise at the individual level, rather, they tend to affect a large group of people within a community. By using this community model, this program is able to avoid “context minimalization error” and focus on the conditions that are showing high prevalence within the homeless population (i,e. substance abuse and HIV/AIDS). Furthermore, this program not only directly benefits the homeless; it also cuts down on government spending on medical expenses, and prevents the spread of disease within the community.
One criticism of this program lies within its ability to effectively reduce drug use among its residents. The article does not mention anything about forcing the residents of these housing units to remain sober or free or drugs while living in these units.. Therefore those suffering from addictions could potentially continue to use while living in the CHHP housing, which does not effectively address the problem. Perhaps this program could implement more drug and alcohol counseling services to individuals to prevent further substance abuse.
The last program being analyzed is Journeys the Road Home. This program is aimed at those who are at-risk or who are currently homeless. The clinical director of this organization, Jena Hencin, stated that within this past year, they had over 10% of their homeless clients become housed, which indicates the success of this organization (Hencin, J, personal communication, Sept. 28, 2013). The success of this organization lies within its asset-based approach and the staffs’ encouragement and support of each of their clients. They don’t just give out food and clothes to their clients; they work with them to find affordable housing and become self-sustaining, which forces clients to try and work towards a goal instead of receiving handouts. Another positive element within this organization is their involvement within the Arlington Heights community. They sponsor walks to support their cause, as well as charity events that increase funding for their organization. The only noticeable downfall of this program is the uneven ratio between staff members and clients; which forces clients to wait hours before they are able to meet with a case manager.
As previously demonstrated, the concept of homelessness remains a large problem that not only affects these individuals themselves, but the overall communities they reside in as well. This was illustrated through the epidemiology of homelessness within the Northwest suburbs, and the ways in which this can lead to social separation within a community. Furthermore, this paper has described some of the intervention programs that provide services to this group in need, including the NLCHP, the Moving Ahead Program, the Chicago Housing for Health Partnership program, as well as Journeys the Road Home. And lastly, this paper has analyzed these programs through a community lens, and has shown what was effective in each program, as well as the aspects that could be improved upon. By understanding how these programs have opened their hearts to the homeless, hopefully one day society can follow, and open their eyes to this invisible population, look past the cardboard signs, and into the hearts of human beings in need of compassion.
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