Stop Trying to End Homelessness
“Working to help end homelessness.” That’s been one of my mantras, mindsets, and goals for 15 years.
Something has been nagging at me for many months. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until recently. How often do we read posts and hear people talking about their “tribe” or their “people?” I know I do…and if you’re reading this, chances are you do too.
You know who else has a tribe, has “their people?” Our homeless neighbors who have been on the streets for a very long time...years…persistently. They are referred to by most as, “chronically homeless.” Yes, even they have their tribe.
When it comes to our work, I’m done looking at the end; I want to focus on a beginning. The thoughtful and heart-felt conclusion I have reached is to focus less on “ending homelessness,” and channel efforts toward “beginning community.”
The Housing First program works for some. But, for those who have experienced persistent homelessness, without community around them, simply putting them in a dwelling doesn't work.
I first heard about Community First! Village in Austin, TX about two years ago. I watched this online video. While the village is impressive…51 acres at full build-out with tiny homes and RVs, micro-enterprise job opportunities, art house, pottery center, blacksmith shop, wood shop, glass-blowing, farming, catering, food trucks, a marketplace, car service center, and a community theater…what drew me in deep were the following phrases:
“This is a human issue, that requires a human response.”
“…a profound catastrophic loss of family.”
“All of us desire to have purpose in our life.”
“Housing will never solve homelessness, but community will.”
I recently visited Community First! Village and saw firsthand their magic and secret sauce at work. I visited with staff and neighbors. The people who move into the village are called “neighbors” and “friends.” I appreciated the care that everyone gave to language: how they spoke to and about their neighbors was filled with love. It was aloha. True, pure aloha.
I believe aloha still lives here in its birthplace... and aloha should guide us to build and begin community. Whether it’s #kauhale with tiny homes or a specialty house caring for people who have been discharged from a hospital, creating community with aloha is our secret sauce. Working to end homelessness isn't enough.
No more waiting for the end.
Let us begin.