by Ramona Turnbull
What effect will the newly elected officials have on the commitment to address and eradicate homelessness?
A lot of agencies are preparing for the anticipated changes that may take place under a new administration. Most of these anticipated changes are not beneficial and this is very disappointing. Most agencies are already struggling to make the most effective adjustments possible with the cuts that have already been made.
Specifically addressing homelessness is not an important priority on anyone’s agenda except the people and agencies that have made a commitment to understand the “true” meaning of homelessness. According to the dictionary, the basic definition of homelessness is “having no home or permanent place of residence.” However, from my experience homelessness is a whole lot more.
To put a face on homelessness (in terms of full understanding) first you must have a full definition and understand how it affects someone that has experienced or is experiencing homelessness. Not only do you lose your “home or permanent place of residence,” you also feel a loss of privilege, self-respect, dignity, and overall sense of self. It affects everyday living as you know it before you experience an episode of homelessness. You also lose your sense of safety and security. There is no sense of stability, so most victims of homelessness feel lost.
That is where the questions start. The first question is, “What should I do?” The next is, “Where should I go for help?” Finally, (in the initial stage of accepting the fact that you are homeless) the next question is, “What do I need to have or bring with me?” Then, the “What if…” questions begin. What if no one can tell me where I need to go? What if I don’t have what I need to get shelter? If I can’t get shelter, what can I do or where can I go? Next, it is time to find the answers to these questions.
Most people know to call 2-1-1 for assistance, but there are some that do not. Once you get an address, the next question is how can I get there? Once you finally get into an emergency shelter, you do not know what to expect, but you are grateful for having someplace to sleep. That’s why the rule book explaining what is expected from you, what to expect from the staff, and what will be done to meet your basic needs such as: food, water, and ability to shower is so important. It is considered a guide and is constantly broken and changed.
Once you have achieved this very difficult and emotional status, the next question is, what do I do next? So, you go to the staff and ask questions, but they are too busy and the shelter is too overcrowded to talk. This goes on for a week and finally you realize that you are on your own. YOU HAVE RIGHTS! You have the right to be treated with respect, referred or informed about community resources, and rules or policies you do not understand. You have the right to have all these things explained to you in detail, if necessary. If you are not able to get any of this information, you cannot move forward, which is very destructive to anyone seeking to leave the shelter as soon as possible.
That is where organizations like NEOCH come in. This organization is especially useful because many individuals do not realize they still have rights when they become homeless. They feel like they have lost “everything”. They regularly take complaints. They meet with the shelter directors and can voice your concerns. They also have a new page on their website which outlines your rights in a shelter.
This organization has been advocating for the homeless population since 1988. It is a non-profit coalition that consists of a fourteen member board, including service providers, housing activists, members, and homeless people. In partnership with “homeless” people, NEOCH has a variety of programs and services that they are very “passionate” in preserving.
Each and every one of these programs are so important that it is difficult, if not impossible, to choose which to eliminate or set aside.
How do we make the decision on what is needed to eradicate homelessness under the Trump Administration? This is especially crucial to consider since this is the first time in history that the elected official does not have a platform. The answer to this question is keeping the outstanding organizations, like NEOCH, and effective programs in place. Focus and dedication are the drive behind these. Also important to note, are the shared foundational principles between these organizations and the basis of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.
Before Jane Addams’ Hull Houses, the homeless had nowhere to go and very little assistance. This included men, women, and children. Although we have come long way since the Hull Houses, I believe the focus should be “Jane Addams come home.” This would place basic needs first, building on them, and prioritizing them like never before. There are changes coming and I pray there will be more positive changes that will allow us to keep moving forward. NEOCH IS A VITAL INSTRUMENT THAT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO CONTINUE PROPERLY ADDRESSING AND ERADICATING HOMELESSNESS.
Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24#1