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On The Table: Homeless Not Helpless Initiative

If you aren’t familiar, today in Akron was “On The Table”.  It’s this thing where people all over the city get together and talk about different issues in the city.
Not coincidentally, we discussed homelessness at our “On the Table” at The Homeless Charity.
All the people (except for me) in our meeting are homeless or were previously homeless.
They came up with 3 initiatives they feel could significantly change how we work with the homeless in Akron.
These are the ideas they came up with:

Homeless Recovery

They astutely observed that Akron is THE recovery community in America. We are the home of AA.
It doesn’t matter if you are homeless or if you are a stockbroker… recovery is recovery..
They had the idea that we should consider homelessness the same way we consider addiction. It is a condition that can be overcome.
This is a powerful idea because it looks at treating the whole person.
The idea that a homeless person is just missing a house is short-sighted and simplistic. Being homeless is a multi-dimensional condition that needs treatment from many different angles.
Literally, these people are trying to recover from homelessness.
There will be slip-ups and missteps. But with the right treatment plan they should be able to recover from homelessness.

Sweat Equity For Homes

Most homeless have little to no money. This makes getting into housing that requires a deposit and first month’s rent incredibly difficult.
They had the idea that people should rent houses or rooms in houses for sweat equity.
The homeless person would enter into an agreement with the landlord that they would work on the property in exchange for a place to live.
The Homeless Charity could help broker that deal if both parties needed.
The Homeless Charity has already bought a house and is looking to buy more. A portion of our residents are sweat equity people. Some people pay to help pay for utilities and taxes. And other people work to make the house better.

Homeless Underground Railroad

This is the idea that excites me the most.
The profound observation of this idea is that the homeless realize that Akron is not ready to help the homeless. Places like Seattle are more enlightened. They have multiple camps to work with the homeless.
But Akron is not yet ready to deal with the truths of homelessness.
They believe that there will always be a portion of homeless that will need to live in the woods. We can minimize this population. But some people need to be in the woods for a time.
They said that society has to understand that these people are in the woods as their strength. For a wide variety of reasons they need to be in that place for some time.
But just because these people are in the woods does not mean they don’t need support. They need Port-a-potties and trash service and food and supplies. These people need support services.
There are also people that are ready to begin the re-entry process of getting back into society. These people need things like the tent community the city of Akron chose to shut down.
But since this is not currently possible in Akron we need to look at different options.
They had the idea that people, organizations and churches could adopt a homeless person. They would actually take these people in and give them shelter, food and support. They were very adamant that this is not a good idea for everyone.
They said that the “Recovery Community” would be a good candidates to take a person in. The “Recovery Community” are people that were formerly homeless.
They also said that “hard-core” religious might be good candidates for this program.
But they strongly cautioned average people from this program. They had the idea that maybe we could have training and orientation classes if you wanted to try taking a person in.
They also thought that The Homeless Charity could be a support service for anyone that took in a homeless person.
And then they had the idea of doing a kind of virtual adoption. Where a person could adopt a homeless person through donations and that sort of thing. They both could write each other and so forth. But the donor wouldn’t need to work with the person in-person.
Overall, they felt that much of this program would need to be hidden like the actual underground railroad. They felt that if anyone was caught sheltering a homeless person they would likely be found out and fined.
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In one sense, it was a little sad that these people know that they are not accepted in society. And it is basically illegal for them to exist.
But on the other hand, it was really amazing to see them optimistically coming up with really cool and innovative ways for people to work with them, if a person chose to do so.
Finally, the group was so excited about this meeting that they want to make this a regular meeting. They want to call it the “Homeless Not Helpless” Initiative.
I really feel like these ideas of merit and could make a big impact in homelessness in Akron.
 

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