What works to end homelessness?
After 12 years of living without permanent housing, four years ago this month I was able to move into a safe, decent and affordable efficiency apartment and have been able to remain housed since. Along with certain concerned family members and others involved, someone I had come to know over the years played a huge role in helping to bring about an end to my prolonged experience of living homeless.
What also helped was having an individualized contingency plan of mine established several years prior for if and when housing might be on the horizon (read: doable).
If it were not for the various aid provided on certain occasions when it was needed most dire, I could have easily either ended up at the Vermont State Hospital or have succumbed to worsening circumstances and intolerable conditions; neither being desirable outcomes.
If access to permanent housing opportunities can happen for me, one way or another, it can also be brought about for most anyone else living in such circumstances.
While it is true there are no easy, simple or quick — nor one size fits all — solutions to ending homelessness, there are practical, proven, workable ones.
When there are others involved to help make something happen and, most importantly, working with the person in need on their terms (within reason), more often than not, it does. Doing otherwise is prone to failure.
Employing enormous amounts of flexibility and also carefully crafted individualized planning and individualized approaches are paramount.
This, however, takes the fostering as well as continuation of meaningful, healthy, quality and consistent relationships in order to help bring these efforts about and have them work in a successful fashion over both the short and long term. It is part of why I have been extremely supportive of housing-first models and most especially Pathways Vermont, which serves this small rural state well. The fact is it works.
This is because, when done correctly, besides providing what it takes to help a person get into housing and remain housed afterwards, among the supportive services provided by staff — including those who might be peers — are meaningful relationships. Peers are persons whose lived experience includes having traveled in the same type of shoes.
In addition, I am also very highly supportive of the housing voucher program being provided by the state of Vermont through the Department of Mental Health, with the housing vouchers being administered by the Vermont State Housing Authority, typically along with the provision of supportive services of one sort or another.
Without such permanent housing opportunities, those currently being served through the Department of Mental Health housing voucher program — as well as Pathways Vermont or other supportive housing or supportive service programs — would otherwise be inappropriately as well as needlessly living out on the street, camped in the woods, residing under bridges, stuck in homeless shelters, jail, prison or state hospital type of institutional settings and the like, or possibly even end up dead.
These types of much more humane approaches and programs are certainly well worth funding, and indeed, each and every person or family who is in need is definitely worth the time and the effort needed to be undertaken.
Based on years of observation, I have come to the conclusion that the only lost causes are the ones given up on.
Morgan W. Brown lives in Montpelier.