Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent

P.O. Box 366, Lightfoot, VA 23090
Office: 757-561-3255
"Assisting people in re-gaining hope and a better way of life."

Friday, June 27, 2003

I always enjoy going to Kevin's web blog because he opens others eyes. Not as somebody who is homeless, but with logic, faith and compassion. As he knows and over 900,000 other people across the US, homelessness ' plight is hard, but not impossible, to get beyond. Here is an excerpt from his website.

A Flawed Theory

Many Rescue Missions work on the belief that people choose to be homeless, and with this idea, they approach homelessness as a matter of behavior. The focus of their work, then, is an attempt to modify homeless people's behavior. They also believe that homeless people, when given a choice, will most often take the path of least resistance. Therefore, they take steps to make homeless life, especially life at the mission, more difficult, more "uncomfortable," than non-homeless life. By doing this they believe they are encouraging/motivating homeless people to return to mainstream society.

But this theory starts to unravel as soon as the question is asked, "Why do people choose to be homeless?" Many in the rescue mission industry recoil at the very question.

Consider: When a person breaks his leg, he first experiences extreme pain. He can no longer walk. To fix the leg this person must first see a doctor. The doctor will examine the injury, determine it's source, set the bone, rap the leg in a cast, and give him pain killers. The doctor will then order this patient to get plenty of rest, and to stay off the leg as much as possible while it begins to heal. After a period of time the patient can start working the leg, slowly at first, rebuilding its strength. Eventually, the patient can stop taking the pain killers, and the cast can come off. Still the leg is not up to full strength and is susceptible to re-injury. Long after the initial injury, the patient must continue to be cautious - protective of the leg.

Now, when a man breaks his leg he chooses to stay off his feet, and as his leg heals he chooses to walk with a limp, favoring the leg - correct? In a way, yes, but for a reason. There is a reason he chooses to stay off his injury. One reason is because he is trying to help his leg heal. Another reason it because it probably hurts like hell.

When the question is asked, "Why did the person choose to be homeless?" the answer is, "because he is injured." Just as man avoids to put the full weight of his body on his leg because it is injured, a homeless man avoids taking on the full weight of life because he, too, is injured. Viewing homelessness as a symptom of injury, instead of a symptom of behavior, should shift the emphasis in rehabilitation away from behavior modification toward treatment of the injury.

Consider: If a kid has a penchant for climbing high into trees, you may want to change that behavior before he gets hurt. But once he's fallen out of the tree, telling him to stop climbing trees isn't going to reset his now broken leg.

Every human function requires energy. It is obvious that digging a ditch requires physical energy. But fighting off a cold also requires physical energy, which is not so obvious. Humans expell other energy that isn't so obvious. There is emotional energy. When you fall in love, your emotional energy soars, but if you are constantly harassed at work you become emotionally drained - leading most likely to depression. There is also Spiritual energy. By the Grace of God you may see life and all its glory, and feel energized by the experience. But you can also experience tragedy, perhaps the loss of a loved one, which takes away your Spiritual energy, and you begin to doubt.

Overcoming homelessness is the most difficult thing I've ever done. It takes every bit of energy to get through the experience. And, many people try and fail at getting out of homelessness because they just didn't have the energy for it. It will certainly try you, physically, emotionally, and Spiritually.

So, now, here you have your basic homeless person, injured and trying to recuperate, and working to get out of homelessness, using all his available energy, and you put him into a rescue mission that is, by design, difficult and uncomfortable to live in. Instead of helping the homeless person overcome his problems, most of what they, rescue missions, do only aggravates his injuries, preventing him from healing.

And people wonder why rescue missions are unsuccessful at getting people out of homelessness?

Chris - I hope this answers your question.

posted by kevin @ Thursday, June 26, 2003


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