Homelessness: Beyond funding, there’s something we can do

Homeless Man - Spencer Platt Getty Image

In the news:  Los Angeles County has outlined strategies to reduce homelessness.  I know some will say that’s old news; most cities and counties are committed to reducing or ending homelessness.  St. Louis City is one of them (CoC).

So why was this news on Jan. 7?  It’s because, according to some, the actual dollars allocated to reducing homelessness is not nearly enough to fully support and stabilize homeless individuals and families.  For news, a link to the L.A. County Homeless Initiative Report and more, follow the link:  New cost estimates for homeless plan put L.A. officials on the spot (Los Angeles Times).

So what’s my take on it?

Earlier this week I reconnected with Kate.  She and I met many years ago as case managers for Section 8 at our local Housing Authority.  We met later in life while working for two different organizations (homeless and transitional housing).  We didn’t start out as friends, but many miles later and after we both grew up, that changed.

Kate gave me an update and reminded me, “…lots of changes since you left the City.”  She talked about one area in particular that has seen its share of changes.

There’s this mini-mall with a major grocery chain on one end, a sub-shop then a radio hut somewhere in the middle, and one of our favorite dine-in restaurants. It’s a really odd place because it sits across the street from several well-established businesses. It’s not the type of place you’d expect to find people without homes.

Kate said she saw a woman with two small children in tow. They had all the signs of obvious displacement:  Assorted bags and suitcases, soiled clothing, tattered shoes… and faces worn with sadness and shame.

My friend invited them to eat with her in the restaurant. The mom politely refused but accepted a box of fried rice for her children.

The long story short is that my friend made a few calls and ultimately convinced the mother that no, she wasn’t crazy (her words, not mine), and yes: She would love to take her and her children to a church on the South Side.  The church has an amazing outreach program so that’s where she left them…

It’s the news and stories like these that remind me:

  1. Funding homeless initiatives (and agencies, and staff, and housing units, etc.):  Always challenging, no matter where you live.
  2. Unconditional compassion still exists.
  3. There is such a thing as the kindness of strangers.
  4. Strangers don’t have to do it all, but most can certainly do something when a person is homeless or faced with a similar crisis (e.g., domestic violence, etc.).
  5. True advocates don’t know how to stop and just can’t quit.

Bottom line:  There’s more work to be done and enough of it to share.


Related links:



Image:  Photo 13 from a slideshow I created a couple of years ago. Real photo credit goes to Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

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