Rosie Weyer is currently pursuing her MSW at the University of Denver. She is a advocate for a youth homeless shelter located in Grand Junction, Colorado. She is a very passionate person who wants to use innovation and community organizing to end homelessness in the United States!
Almost 70 years ago the United Nations declared that housing is a fundamental human right. According to Henwood author of, The Grand Challenge of Ending Homelessness (2015), having a place to call home is the foundation for health; security; personal relationships; and overall physical, social, and emotional wellbeing. I am blessed when I think of home to be filled with memories of my crazy loving family and all the fun times I’ve had at our farm house on Chickadee Rd. When I turn onto the gravel, pass an Amish buggy, and get a good whiff of the manure on the farmer’s field I know I’m getting close. When I open my refrigerator and see venison hot sticks, fresh cheese curds, and Leinenkugel’s beer I really know I’m home!
Not all people have the same memories when asked about their “home”. Homelessness and housing instability plagues diverse groups of people such as families, youth, veterans, and chronically homeless single adults (2). “…recent evidence states a growth in homelessness among two populations at either ends of the age spectrum: older adults (aged 55 years or older) and young adults (aged between 18 and 25 years) (1).
Working for Karis Inc. I see the detrimental effects my youth are experiencing do to being homelessness. They have high rates of substance use, traumatic experiences, institutional experiences, mental health disorder symptoms, and HIV and sexually transmitted infection risk behaviors (3). How can we help these youth, there is so much stacked against them?
Well, I’m glad you asked! By combining evidence, resources, innovative thinking, and political will, the United States can end homelessness (4)! These tactics can be accomplished on across all levels micro, mezzo, and macro. Social workers need to focus on best practice (evidence) methods of serving those who experience homelessness on a micro level. We also need to find our strength in numbers of connecting community organizations to address how to connect those with preventative and current support services. Lastly, by challenging the status quo of poverty and income inequality though policy change we can create more affordable housing, raise the minimum wage, and rewire the minds of those who look and see “homeless people” instead of seeing people who are deeply hungry for authentic connection, community, and love. It is our ethical responsibility to support these macro level changes to ensure that homelessness in the United States becomes obsolete.
There is crucial evidence that supports a housing first initiative in ending homelessness. Why would we build houses for free for people? Do you think your tax money could be spent more effectively? In the United States, it can cost $35,000 to $150,000 annually per person to maintain a someone on the streets or in shelters (1). I work with a chronically homeless young man would managed to accumulate trespassing charges, with bonds he couldn’t pay, nearly $80,000 in bills for visiting the ER, and bounced between two of the local shelters in GJ. By bringing together Mind Springs Health, Whole Health LLC, Rocky Mt. Health Plans, and Karis Inc. we came up with a innovative housing first intervention for our young man who has been chronically homeless for the past 3 years.
I am happy to say that he is currently off the streets, living in a transitional living program here in GJ, free of charge. He is slowly being accepted by his peers and taken under their wings for safe positive connections. He now has a place that he can call home.
Culhane, D. P., & Byrne, T. (2013, July 23). Cohort effects in homelessness: Trends among older and emerging adults. Presented at the National Alliance to End Homelessness Annual Conference, Washington, DC.
Henwood, B. F., Wenzel, S. L., & Mangano, P. F. (2015). The Grand Challenge of Ending Homelessness (Working paper No. 9). American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.
Logan, J. L., Frye, A., Pursell, H. O., Anderson-Nathe, M., Scholl, J. E., & Korthius, P. T.(2013). Correlates of HIV risk behaviors among homeless and unstably housed young adults. Public Health Reports, 128, 153–160.
U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. (2010). Opening doors: Strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. Retrieved from http://usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/Opening%20Doors%202010%20FINAL%20FSP%20Prevent%20End%20Homeless.pdf