What Homeless People Need, What Homeless People Receive

What Homeless People need could be divided into three categories.  Each is essential in its own right, yet if one category goes unfulfilled, efforts to fulfill the other needs will be pointless, that is, if the ultimate goal is to end homelessness.

  • Immediate Short Term Needs

These are the obvious, most recognizable needs.  These are the needs that most people fulfill, when they decide to help the homeless, especially when they don’t have an extensive knowledge of homelessness
Food, water, clothing, toiletries and temporary shelter, temporary showers, etc.  These things can often be found in abundance at homeless service provider facilities.

  • Transitional Needs

These are the needs which take a homeless person from the streets to a place of his/her own.   They include a wide range of services, not all of which are needed by all homeless people, but all will certainly be needed by some homeless people.    Case management, psychiatric therapy, medical  and dental services, transportation, life skills development, and eventually housing.   Housing could be considered a subset of transitional needs, as it comes with its own unique list of needs, such as: a bed and linen, kitchen supplies such as pots, pans, can opener, utensils, detergents, soap, more toiletries and clothing, etc., rental assistance, and eventually employment.  These things are much harder to come by than the immediate short term needs items.  These things usually have to asked for, specifically, before they are made available.  They can usually be found, but it takes a concerted effort from case managers and the like.

  • Community Connection Needs

This last category is the clincher.  It’s what makes all the previous efforts to help the homeless person worthwhile.  It is crucial at this point to create for the homeless person a community for him/her to belong to, one that accepts the homeless person, and one that the homeless person also accepts.  You know, friends. Without this community connection, homeless people will remain vulnerable to homelessness.  Recidivism is high among those who escape homelessness yet never develop healthy community connections.

People who are willing to help the homeless will supply the first category in abundance.   And, with a special call for needs, they’ll help out with the second category.  Yet, even the most helpful people seem to have a difficult time fulfilling the needs of community for the homeless.  It’s not that they lack the ability, it’s more like their compassion hits a wall that they cannot overcome.  They cannot bring themselves to be that personally involved.  The intimacy and vulnerability that comes with being true friends with another person is just too much for most people to commit to, when working with the homeless.   Usually the first issue that homeless people face, after getting into their own place is a sense of loneliness.  They need a new community, but all they have is their old friends from the streets.  It is common to see newly housed people hanging out on the streets.  But what other option do they have?


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless
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