I read a blog post this week entitled “America Could End Homelessness in One Year by Doing This.” I had to see what “this” was. The author went on propose that we could solve homelessness in the U.S. by taking all the plastic bottles we don’t use, filling them with sand and making homes out of them. I’ll give him kudos for creativity and I’m all for recycling, but the idea that we can end homelessness by doing any one thing is simplistic at best.
This underlies a fundamental principle that we operate under that seems to be missed by many… social issues such as poverty and homelessness are not physical issues at their core. Physical assistance, like food, shelter and clothing, is needed, but don’t address the underlying problems causing these crises. To be honest, it’s much easier to wrap our minds around ways to provide folks shelter and food than it is to effectively counter the internal issues that caused their need for them.
Let me be clear. We offer food to our families every month. We help them find shelter, even temporary shelter. But we don’t stop there, because it doesn’t go deep enough. There aren’t enough posts in the blogosphere to debate the best way to address these needs, but let me fly over the areas of need that we seek to address.
- Fundamental Needs: Food, housing, transportation, heat, communication, medical care, etc. (Think Maslow 1.0.) Many of these resources are social service referrals. Without meeting these external needs, we can’t move to more internal work.
- Financial Needs: Bill assistance, budget coaching, networking, job training, resume building, interview skills, etc. We want to assist them with anything a family needs to land a job, keep a job and manage the money they’re bringing in.
- Relational Needs: Restoring relationships with family and friends, developing a relationship with a mentor and making new, healthier friendships. Crisis isolates. We push our families to develop a healthy relational network for support and encouragement.
- Emotional Needs: Everyone has a story about how they got to where they are. We want to honor each family’s history while helping them process ways to grow. Many of our families attend counseling during their year in Acts Metro.
- Spiritual Needs: We are a faith based non-profit. We believe that it benefits all of us to be connected with a community of people who offer spiritual input into our lives. This also helps with long term stability should a family find itself struggling again.