If you close your eyes and say the words, "homeless, addicted and, or mentally ill," what do you see? Well, whatever you see will be based on all your previous ideas and the experiences you’ve had with anyone of these.
• Do you see a guy that’s just down on his luck, and could use a “hand up, not a handout?” Just a job, or temporary assistance until he finds his way out of this predicament.
• A single mom who just got evicted from her apartment for failure to pay rent and who just lost her kids to the system because of a substance use disorder?
• Or a bearded man in several layers of clothes, maybe a vet pushing a shopping cart down the road full of aluminum cans crushed and ready to be recycled?
Maybe that’s what you see, or even someone holding a sign on the freeway offramp, sleeping in the park or on a bench or bus stop. Whatever you see, it’s very real, and I’m sure it doesn’t make you feel good.
We’re all good people. We’re empathetic and compassionate. Seeing others at, what very well could be, the worst part of their life, does something to us. We want to help, and we’re wired to help. It’s part of who we are.
“A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role.” – Yehuda Berg
“No man can become rich without himself enriching others.” – Andrew Carnegie
Homelessness, addiction, and mental illness are not only increasing in our region, but all over the nation. Why is that? Could it be the psychological impact that COVID has had on the world? Is it lack of service providers and mental health agencies? Or little to no affordable housing? Maybe it’s all the above.
So, as a community, what do we do? What CAN we do? It seems overwhelming and you're right, there's a lot of work that needs to be done. But the good news is there ARE things that you can do right now. It starts with having a better understanding of the complexities that lead people into homelessness. We know that complex problems don’t have simple solutions. However, through educating ourselves and expanding our perspectives we can see that each one of us can play a critical role in changing the trajectory of people’s lives.
Homelessness is experienced differently by different people and falls into four different categories:Transitional Homelessness
Grant Denton is the executive director of the Karma Box Project (www.karmaboxproject.org), a community initiative that allows people to give non-perishable food, hygiene products, toiletries, and other useful items to those in need.