This is a message that I am bringing to Pacific Yearly Meeting, our annual Quaker gathering, at Walker Creek
Ranch. This is a distillation of some of the best practices for ending homelessness.
|Misty, a formerly homeless woman now housed in supportive housing, recently |
joined our GPAHG team and is sharing
her vision of how to end homelessness, using our GPAHG logo
My wife Jill Shook and I have formed a nonprofit called Making Housing and Community Happen that helps organize and educate people to advocate for affordable and homeless housing. Using a faith-rooted approach similar to that of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, we organize congregations to advocate for affordable and homeless housing policies at the local level.
Addressing homelessness has been a long-standing and deeply felt concern of mine for decades. As an AFSC youth coordinator, I organized youth to make sandwiches to give to homeless people living on the street. My wife Kathleen of blessed memory (a Methodist pastor) and I were involved in a hot meal program at her church that fed nearly 100 people each month. Over the past couple of decades I have come know many homeless and formerly homeless people personally. Jill and I currently have a formerly homeless man living in a back house in our home who helps us maintain our home in exchanged for free rent. Here is some lessons we have learned:
Direct service is a first step towards solving the homelessness crisis. Providing much needed food, blankets, and temporary shelter alleviates suffering, but doesn’t end homelessness. What ends homelessness are homes. A homeless woman said to me just yesterday, “We like getting food given to us, but we’d prefer to be able to make our own food in our own kitchen.”
Housing First: Evidence shows that the best practice for ending homelessness is Housing First, which provides permanent supportive housing (PSH). Instead of temporary shelters, people experiencing chronic homelessness are given secure, affordable housing along with supportive services. In our city, 95% of those in PSH stay housed. Some have become effective advocates for PSH.
Homelessness Prevention. One of the best ways to reduce homelessness is to prevent it from happening in the first place. A large church in our city spends over $70,000 each year to provide emergency funds for people on the verge of being evicted so that they can stay in their apartments.
Another important tool is Rapid Rehousing, getting people back into housing as quickly as possible before they become traumatized living on the street. The longer people are on the street, the harder it is to get them housed and self-reliant.
Using church land and facilities.. Claremont Meeting is an excellent example of using their facility to provide shelter and supportive services to homeless people. Family Promise is a nation-wide program in which a dozen or so churches work together and let homeless families stay in their facility for a week at a time while case workers help them to find jobs and permanent housing. These programs provide services that help people to become housed. Some churches have excess land, or may have declined in numbers, so they allow affordable housing developers to build on this unused land, at no cost to the church. Jill’s book Making Housing and Community Happen describes what churches have done to create permanent affordable housing. She also provides background on theology, policy and organizing techniques to help congregations to develop affordable/homeless housing.
Affordable Housing. Providing people with affordable housing helps keep them from falling into homelessness. The fast-growing homeless population consists of seniors, and most of them become homeless because of fixed incomes and rising rents. Our current homelessness crisis began when federal fund for affordable housing was slashed during the Reagan administration, and every administration since then has cut back HUD funding. The need for affordable and homeless housing is so great that Union Station, the homeless service provider in our city, has hired a full-time advocate. We work with him and advocates from United Way in a city-wide campaign to build support for more affordable housing in our city.
Empowerment and Accompaniment. Serving homeless people meals provides an opportunity to get to know our homeless neighbors and also to invite local homeless service providers and “housing navigators” to help them to become housed. Some homeless service providers are equipping and training homeless and formerly homeless people to be advocates and share their powerful stories with decision makers. Empowerment/accompaniment is a model that Jill and I use in our work. We value our homeless friends as partners and allies in the struggle for housing justice.
If you’d like to learn more, contact Anthony Manousos at email@example.com and/or go to: