False Expectations From Homeless Agencies

Perhaps the worst culprit in generating unreasonable, and plain old false expectations, are the organizations who work directly with the homeless.   So busy at raising funds, and attempting to win favor with the public and public officials, homeless service agencies tell one big fib after another, both about the work the do, and their achievements.

A rescue mission will make a big deal over 250 homeless people completing their rehab program, (usually a year long program), but what they don’t say is how many people they were unable to help.   Rescue missions in medium to large size cities will usually see 5000 or more people coming to them for assistance. Only helping 250 out of 5000, no longer seems significant.

Many of the graduates of rescue mission programs will fall back into homelessness in a short time, or they will never be able to move beyond the mission and to a life of independent living.  Many  become institutionalized to the rescue mission life and never leave. Or, they make it to a point of independence but will still fall back into homelessness with in a year.  Rescue missions never provide those numbers, they don’t collect information on recidivism.

Even the agencies that have moved beyond the arcane practices of rescue missions, and are embracing the latest techniques for ending homelessness, are often over promising results.    They know that the new programs work, but their civic and political overseers underfund them, or are  under the false impression that they don’t have to fully commit to these programs, such as Housing First, or Rapid Rehousing.   They may be thinking that 1/2 the efforts will get them 1/2 the results (and will consider that as acceptable) but these programs really don’t work unless they are fully supported and engaged.   Also, these agencies that receive funding to end homelessness are required to prove their usefulness, and this puts their case managers in the position of having to misrepresent their success.  So to show good numbers on paper, the majority of their efforts are being spend on the homeless who need it the least, and they are all but ignoring the homeless who need it most – that is, the worst case homeless, the chronically homeless.   Although such agencies may be able to produce minimum acceptable numbers, these cities are seeing no noticeable difference in the number of homeless on the streets.  And as usual the truly chronically homeless end up neglected instead of prioritized, as promised by these programs. 

Worst of all, the agencies will excuse their lack of success by blaming the homeless.   If it were possible for the chronically homeless to get off the streets under their own volition, they would have already done so.  Obviously they need the help of case managers.   Case managers that will do more than just tell the homeless what they need to do.  Most homeless people know what needs to be done, but don’t have the ability to do it themselves.   That’s why they are chronically homeless, and why they need help from agencies.  They don’t need a case manager to tell them to go apply for an apartment, they need a case manager who will go and take care of that issue for them.  If a homeless person goes and asks a landlord to rent to them, most likely the landlord will deny their request.   The case manager needs to go to the landlord and discuss the special needs of that homeless person, and secure the housing for the homeless person.

Despite all the promises, and claims to improve things, nothing is changing on the streets, and there are just as many homeless people as ever.


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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