Housing the Homeless Is Just the Beginning
When people talk about “fixing the homeless crisis,” they can sometimes see it in a very simplified way, thinking if we just get “them” off the streets and find them housing, the homeless crisis would be resolved. In reality, finding housing is just the beginning. Many people who have endured months or years on the streets have to adjust to being housed. And there can be many barriers that get in the way. As a result, formerly homeless people will often struggle to keep their long-term housing. As a case manager at GLIDE, I see these struggles on a daily basis.
Bernice, Tina and Danielle from our Walk-In Center staff.
For those of us who are housed and have never been homeless, there are many things we take for granted about having a home. It’s hard for us to understand what a homeless person has been through. For people that have been chronically homeless, it’s quite an adjustment moving from homelessness to being housed. The basic life skills of managing bills, budgeting, cooking and cleaning are often challenging for those who were once homeless.
In addition, substance use and mental health issues are all too often both the cause and result of homelessness. Of the people living on the street, 94% face behavioral health challenges; 12% have mental health issues; 12% have substance use issues; and 70% have a dual diagnosis. When a homeless person is struggling due to mental health issues and does not have access to the proper support, it makes it harder to stay housed. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, “mental disorders prevent people from carrying out essential aspects of daily life, such as self-care, household management and interpersonal relationships.”
In my work at GLIDE, I have created a new peer support group for those who are newly housed. This group also supports those who are newly homeless, in hopes that people who come to the group will share resources, as well as help each other cope with feeling overwhelmed and isolated. The group helps to empower them and helps them adjust to being housed—to hopefully keep their housing, and not end up back on the streets. After all, GLIDE’s mission emphasizes personal transformation and empowerment through the efforts of a loving and inclusive community. We must be there for each other every step of the way, and not just as far as the doorstep.
Bernice Miranda Ferrer is a Case Manager II/MFTI at GLIDE's Walk-In Center. Prior to coming to GLIDE she worked for six years in the Tenderloin and Mission neighborhoods as an Outreach Worker and HIV Test Counselor. She has a Masters in Family Therapy, with a focus on Community Mental Health. Bernice comes from a multi-ethnic working-class family, and was born and raised in the Bay Area.
Statistics cited above can be found in the following resources, available online:
“Facts on Homelessness: Scope of Homelessness Nationwide,” Project HOME (Nov. 2016), https://projecthome.org/about/facts-homelessness
“Mental Illness and Homelessness,” National Coalition for the Homeless (June 2006), http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/Mental_Illness.pdf