When Fair Isn’t Fair

It’s a matter of approach. I know of a very well meaning director of a homeless shelter who wants to be fair to all his charges. and when he has care to offer, he gives each person the very same thing.  This prevents some homeless from complaining that they didn’t receive the same care that other homeless received. The problem with this approach is that the needs of the homeless are all different. 

Homeless people should be receiving help according to what they need, not what they want.   It also happens all over the homelessness industry. people who work at shelters often think in terms of what they want to give, instead of terms of what the homeless need.  They make one decision that affects all the homeless, instead of making decisions to the specific needs of each homeless person.

Some homeless people are so terribly addicted to drugs that they need a facility that would be very difficult for them to leave for a good length of time.   This person is best served in a place where he is kept away from drugs, and drugs are kept away from him.  Many rescue missions require that homeless people in their programs never leave their property.  This person and these rescue missions are a good match.  But…

There are also homeless people who don’t have any addiction problems, perhaps they have mental health issues related to anxiety, stress.  They easily become claustrophobic.  This homeless person would never last in a rescue mission program like this, (most rescue mission programs last 6 months to a year.  Actually, there are few people that I know of who have never been homeless, who could voluntarily survive a program that restricts them to a building or property lot.)  And if you’re wondering, yes, it’s very similar to being in jail.  There are few rescue missions, well, none that I know of, that cater specifically to the issues that the mentally ill deal with.  

Treating an addict like a mentally ill person, and a mentally ill person like an addict just doesn’t meet their needs, and is truly unfair to both.


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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