Ending the Cycle of Homelessness: House, Educate, Employ (by Caitlin Farasy)

caitlin.farasy-culmination project photoIntroduction

My name is Caitlin Farasy, I am a pre-nursing student at Portland Community College. I was born and raised in the city of Portland and recently moved back from Phoenix. Upon returning to the city I love, I found it in a state of crisis. The homeless population had grown dramatically leaving people on the streets, in shelters and forming tent cities throughout the area. As an aspiring nurse, I feel it is important to help those in need. This was my motivation this term for focusing on social welfare as a theme for my coursework. I organized a coat drive to benefit the Portland Rescue Mission. My goal was to raise awareness in my community while bringing warmth to those who need it. I was able to gather several boxes full of warm jackets and blankets but more importantly, I was able to begin meaningful dialogue around a pressing issue in my community. Getting people talking about how they can help was one of the most rewarding parts of this project. We can all make a difference; buy someone lunch, donate a jacket, or even volunteer time at a shelter. Homelessness has been a topic ignored by our society for far too long. It is time we face this problem as a nation and create a sustainable, long term solution to housing our homeless population.

Become More Informed: A Proposal

Ending the cycle of homelessness is a daunting task that many cities around the U.S. struggle to achieve. On a single night, the City of Portland reported “3,800 people slept on the streets, in shelter, and in temporary housing, and an estimated 12,000 people were doubled up, many in overcrowded and often unsafe conditions” (The City of Portland). Getting off the streets for most means overcoming several insurmountable hurdles. Not only is finding housing difficult, but finding and maintaining employment when sleeping outside is nearly impossible. An improved government funded housing program would provide a realistic job seeking environment to end the cycle of homelessness.

This new housing program would provide people that are experiencing homelessness with individual free housing for a designated period of time, under the condition that participants are to be seeking employment or education. Each case would be appointed to a caseworker that councils the individual on job seeking skills and provides resources for education. Housing people would create a more suitable environment to seek employment as they would have a safe place to get a good night sleep, complete applications, and maintain personal hygiene. Costs to the tax payers and government would decrease over time by reducing health care costs due to living outside. This type of program could significantly reduce homelessness in cities across the U.S. and act as a helping hand for those struggling to find or keep employment.

In my home town of Portland, Oregon there are several efforts being made to assist in the current housing crisis. There are several nonprofit organizations that are creating new shelters for community style living to help get people off the streets and in more secure and humane environments. One valiant effort being made in my community is by Harbor of Hope. They have a sound model to provide shelter on a reservation only basis for up to 200 chronically homeless people. They are a privately funded group and on their website it states that “Its success will depend on in-kind and monetary contributions from the community” (Ending the cycle of homelessness). Other government programs assist with low income housing. This helps many but does not solve the problem for all people facing homelessness. The program I am suggesting would be completely government funded and would offer free housing along with the existing low income housing assistance available to those who need it. It would also strongly emphasize education and employment to ensure sustainability for the future.

For anybody, finding a job can be difficult. Often, applications must be filled out online. Access to technology is very limited to someone experiencing homelessness. Walking in to a place of business when you are unable to maintain proper personal hygiene or have clean clothes does not create a professional appearance. A clean appearance would also grant them access to a public library to use technology for job seeking where generally they would be removed for loitering. When employment is obtained, it can be hard to keep if the individual is sleeping on the streets and not getting adequate rest to perform their job duties. This program would help eliminate some of the hurdles many face when trying to seek employment while living on the streets by providing them with a place to rest, bathe, and focus on finding work.

The cost of supporting someone living on the streets can dramatically be reduced by providing housing. Shelters, jails, mental health facilities and health care costs are just some of the major price tags to our government. Medicaid and jails are the two highest costs to taxpayers regarding the homeless (Cho). Providing housing would lower health care costs related to homelessness as well as jail costs as they would be less likely to end up back in jail, saving Americans a substantial amount of money. According to the United States Interagency Council of Homelessness “numerous studies have shown that it is cheaper to provide people experiencing chronic homelessness with supportive housing than have them remain homeless” (Ending Chronic Homelessness). The Homeless Cost Study led by Dr. Michael R. Cousineau and conducted at the University of Southern California, found that “Placing four chronically homeless people into permanent supportive housing in Los Angeles resulted in more than $80,000 per year in savings to taxpayers and improved quality of life for the individuals” (Lewit). This is considerable savings that could potentially be put back in to other programs and systems to better our communities such as education.

Another obstacle that many face when trying to find employment is lack of education. With this program, education would be emphasized and encouraged by caseworkers. Securing a GED can open doors to qualify people for a larger number of jobs that would be able to lead to permanent housing and better quality of life. Trade schools and vocational schools can be completed in a short amount of time and can provide a lifelong skill that will help maintain employment. Many people would qualify for grants to help pay for tuition so they can attend school. An education can give someone the confidence to enter the job market ready to succeed. This idea is like the old proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a life time.” Investing in education for homeless people will be an investment in their future and the future of our communities.

There is an ethical principle to this program as well. Allowing our citizens and fellow humans to live outside in unhealthy environments in the dead of winter or the heat of summer is inhumane. These conditions are dangerous and put people at risk for many health issues. An article in The Canadian Medical Association Journal stated that “Homeless people are at increased risk of dying prematurely and suffer from a wide range of health problems, including seizures, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, musculoskeletal disorders, tuberculosis, and skin and foot problems” (Hwang). People are experiencing severe health issues that go unattended and become worse. Shelters are overcrowded with people and resources are often depleted posing more health problems along with lack of proper nutrition. Providing housing to someone can decrease health issues caused by homelessness and create a brighter future for many.

In Salt Lake City, a similar proposition called the Housing First Program was put in to action. Over the course of several years they worked to place chronically homeless people in housing and the results were surprising to many. The Washington Post reported “In 2005, Utah had nearly 1,932 chronically homeless. By 2014, that number had dropped 72 percent to 539. Today, explained Gordon Walker, the director of the state Housing and Community Development Division, the state is “approaching a functional zero” (McCoy). Utah was wildly successful at reducing the percentage of chronically homeless individuals while lowering costs of supporting them. “In all, before instituting Housing First, Utah was spending on average $20,000 on each chronically homeless person…. It’s now years later. And these days, Walker says the state saves $8,000 per homeless person in annual expenses” (McCoy) This model is a win-win for both the government and people experiencing homelessness. There is a clear solution to ending homelessness and bettering lives demonstrated by this example Utah has set.

The Gale Encyclopedia of American Law approximates 3.5 million people homeless in America each year (Gale). These people are living in unhealthy environments that are not conducive to employment or a healthy life style. Many want to work and support themselves but have insurmountable barriers to overcome. This program would allow them to get back on their feet by being provided housing and available resources along with a caseworker to help guide them through the process. Accountability would be important as well. Having to prove that they are actively seeking employment would motivate participants to find a job. Education would also be emphasized to obtain lifelong skills that can result in steady employment.

Every day people struggle to find housing and employment while living on the street. Homelessness in America is a pressing issue that should be addressed with urgency. We as a nation not only carry an ethical and moral responsibility to house our homeless but a financial one as well. A program designed to place people experiencing homelessness in a safe environment conducive to employment could dramatically reduce the number of our citizens living on the streets while lowering costs to tax payers. With proven examples of similar models success and a surplus of data from studies that show housing our homeless would be cost effective, it is time we bring this in to more cities across America. Together, we can finally end the cycle of homelessness.

 

Work Cited

“Homeless Statistics.” Portlandoregon.gov. The City of Portland, Oregon, 12 Feb. 2016. Web.

08 Mar. 2017. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/toolkit/article/562207

Cho, Richard. “Aligning Hearts, Heads, and Budgets to End Chronic Homelessness in 2017.”

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. USICH, 2 Nov. 2015. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

“Ending Chronic Homelessness.” United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. USICH. 19 Jan. 2017. Web. 06 Mar. 2017. https://www.usich.gov/goals/chronic

Lewit, Meghan,. “Sheltering Homeless Saves Money, Study Says.” USC News. N.p., 19 Nov. 2009. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

“Ending the Cycle of Homelessness.” Oregon Harbor of Hope. Oregon Harbor of Hope, n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017

McCoy, Terrence. “The Surprisingly Simple Way Utah Solved Chronic Homelessness and Saved Millions.” The Washington Post (n.d.): 1-3. 17 Apr. 2015. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.

Hwang, Stephen W. “Homelessness and Health.” Canadian Medical Association Journal. N.p., 23 Jan. 2001. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

“Homeless Person.” Gale Encyclopedia of American Law, edited by Donna Batten, 3rd ed., vol. 5, Gale, 2010, pp. 301-304. Gale Virtual Reference

A Short Annotated Bibliography

For my community theme this term I have chosen social welfare. I have organized a coat drive to benefit the Portland Rescue Mission. We are in our last week of the coat drive and have had ups and downs but I am pushing for a strong finish! For my research question for the culmination project, I will be focusing on employment in people experiencing homelessness. It is an issue many people face with insurmountable hurdles and I think it’s important to get the conversation started to find a solution.

 

Sources found

  • “Employment and Homelessness.”National Coalition for the Homeless. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/employment.html

 

This is a fact sheet of research gathered surrounding employment in the homeless community. It gathers many sources and studies on the topic. It has a lot of statistics comparing homelessness and employment. The article talks about barriers and political policies that are factors in this issue. It also discusses past trends of wages and low income households. It is written with a very clear stance on the topic, however, it is validated with many facts from reputable sources. This article will be very useful for my paper as it discusses the very topic I will be arguing. There is a lot of good information that I will be able to strengthen my paper with.

  • Wabc, and Mike Waterhouse. “Man’s Story of Helping Homeless Man Is Inspiring, Heartbreaking.”ABC7 New York. N.p., 02 Feb. 2017. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

Okay so this one might be a long shot because it is a piece of journalism and I’m not sure this acceptable for the kind of paper we are writing, but hear me out on this! This story was sent to me by my contact at the Portland Rescue Mission. It is the story of a man that decided to help a homeless man get a job. It is an inspiring story that outlines the struggles of someone trying to find employment with little to no resources. Not only that but to maintain a job when you don’t have a place to shower or get ready for work. The arguable authority behind this is that it is a true story of a man’s experience and realization of the hurdles many must face to find employment. If this is acceptable to use in my paper this would draw on pathos and ethos to add to my argument. It would show an example of what it truly means to be homeless and find employment.

  • Klotz, Mary Beth. “Educational opportunities for homeless youth: new provisions under ESSA.” Communique, Oct. 2016, p. 19+. Academic OneFile, libproxy.pcc.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.libproxy.pcc.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=pcc&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA469850042&asid=e1a1006c8047ee891ef7678ddaf405a4. Accessed 1 Mar. 2017.

This article speaks about what is being done now with homeless youth to try and improve education. It outlines the Every Student Succeeds Act with new provisions that took place in October 2016. It talks about the expanded services for high risk youth in the homeless population. This is a great source for my paper so I can show what efforts are being made with young people that are homeless to promote education and better futures. This directly ties with my topic as this is a hurdle many face when looking for employment, un or under education. I can then propose to further this with some ideas I have for my solution to the issue of employment and homelessness.

“Supportive Housing Program.” Supportive Housing Program. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/hudprograms/supportive-housing

https://www.usich.gov/goals/chronic

 

“Ending Chronic Homelessness.” Ending Chronic Homelessness. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

Lewit, Meghan,. “Sheltering Homeless Saves Money, Study Says.” USC News. N.p., 19 Nov. 2009. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

Cho, Richard. “News.” Aligning Hearts, Heads, and Budgets to End Chronic Homelessness in 2017. USICH, 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 08 Mar. 2017

http://www.tuesdayforumcharlotte.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/150417PostUtah.pdf

McCoy, Terrence. “The Surprisingly Simple Way Utah Solved Chronic Homelessness and Saved Millions.” The Washington Post (n.d.): 1-3. 17 Apr. 2015. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.

“ In all, before instituting Housing First, Utah was spending on average $20,000 on each chronically homeless person…..It’s now years later. And these days, Walker says the state saves $8,000 per homeless person in annual expenses.”

 

 

 

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One comment

  1. Ellie

    Hey Caitlin!
    I really enjoyed reading your paper. It sounds like you had a great experience working with the Rescue Mission, and that you learned quite a bit. Living in Portland it is hard not to be confronted by the homeless population, and to feel very sad and worried. It’s such an in your face issue, it is a little shocking to me at times that more isn’t being done. I think your call for action really addresses the issues that surround homelessness. The complexity of the issue really creates a lot to think about. I enjoyed that you mentioned the issues surrounding employment and education with the homeless. It is easy to forget what privileges you have as a person who lives in a home, and hygiene especially is a large privilege. Your call to action is direct, and outlined in a manner in which you can really see the steps. When tackling an issue like this it seems it would be important to plan the steps out, there are so many variables. If you have a man that is trying to get enrolled into college, he would need a safe space to live, clean clothing, transportation, and most likely on going access to support. I think you outlined how this could be made a reality! Thanks for the time you spent this term helping these people in our community and showing that you care!

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