I have long pondered the challenges of enumerating homelessness. In general, I have been against this, as accuracy is unattainable (how you define homelessness will change what you count). However, there is also a push in the London Community Plan on Homelessness to have enumeration as a means of showing whether prevention and rapid re-housing work. And, believing that they will work, I think the statistics would be a useful tool.
I was extremely pleased to find this recent blog post: http://stonesoupstation.blogspot.com/2010/12/counters-are-coming-counters-are-coming.html. In the post, Steven outlines the history of homeless counts, the challenges, and possible ways to enhance accuracy. This is a must read for communities considering counts of their own.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness is an overarching organization in the U.S. that covers all agencies working with people experiencing homelessness. They have a very active blog at blog.endhomelessness.org, and I had the privilege of having a guest post on the site. In the post, I talked about the importance of all people who are working to address homelessness to also include looking at public policies. You can read the full post at: http://blog.endhomelessness.org/?p=2778.
As I have mentioned before, people who are experiencing homelessness are often very busy just attending to the basic necessities of life. In London, a person might walk 20 kilometres in a day just to get to the food bank, have a test done at St Joe’s hospital, go to the soup kitchen, and back to the shelter where they are staying. Most have multiple appointments in any given day with various support services. However, although one is busy, there can be a lack of feeling like one is making any forward progress.
Because of this, there has been a growing conversation about making space for meaningful daytime activities to enhance positive socialization, lend purpose and meaning to life, and perhaps enhance some life skills. We have been talking about this in the London Homelessness Outreach Network from day 1, but it is also mentioned as a topic that will go to committee in the London Community Plan on Homelessness. In my dissertation research, doing focus groups to move forward from the findings, individuals with lived experience mentioned this as the primary service gap in London (followed by street-level healthcare).
Two agencies come to mind who are already doing some of this. The London Coffee House is very important to many people, and is the main social network of many, built simply around playing cards. More recently, the London InterCommunity Health Centre Health Outreach for the Homeless has started a creative writing group. They call themselves Grit Uplifted, and have started a blog at http://grituplifted.tumblr.com/. Many of the agencies that currently exist to ‘manage’ homelessness, could enhance their services by providing meaningful activities, which are a piece of the puzzle in allowing people to move themselves out of homelessness.
I had the privilege of doing another guest blog post, this time for the London Community Foundation. In this post I wrote about ways that people in London, Ontario can become involved in taking action on homelessness (note, this is prior to the official formation of the London Homelessness Outreach Network).
The post is available HERE.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post suggesting that the idea that ‘homelessness can happen to anyone’ is true, but also hides the reality that those who live in poverty bear the greatest burden of homelessness. The National Alliance to End Homelessness just released a research brief that demonstrates exactly this, in particular that the working poor are more likely to encounter homelessness than the general population. In particular, people who are employed and living in poverty will experience more acutely: 1) severe housing cost burdens, 2) living ‘doubled up’, and 3) are employed in more volatile industries.
It’s always nice when my hunches are supported by statistics, and this example demonstrates the value of research and statistics.
If you would like to attend our January meeting, please help us pick a date by going here: http://doodle.com/tp7s3hydcsysv5se.
As per the previous post, the London Homelessness Outreach Network (LHON) is now officially established. You can find us in 3 ways:
The Website – www.londonhon.ca
On Twitter – @LondonHON
On Facebook – London Homelessness Outreach Network
Of course, I would also love to talk with you in person about it – firstname.lastname@example.org
We are ‘live’ and official! Thank you everyone for your hard work in getting this group off the ground, particularly those who have been with me since March. We are on Twitter as @LondonHON, and have a Facebook fan page as you can see in the right-hand column. Looking forward to seeing the energy that comes from spreading the word around town.