Real Change For Real People

“It’s gonna be a journey where we’re gonna pour in to you, but you’re also going to pour in to your kids and you’re going to change the course of your life forever”Chris Megison, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Solutions For Change

Please take 4 minutes to watch the video below before continuing. I promise it will be worth the added context and understanding you’ll get from it.

Homelessness is a complex problem and I certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers. There are some things though that can be said with confidence, because they speak to underlying objective truths about how the world works.

The first would be that making poor choices plays a large role behind many people living on the streets. Yes, I know there are exceptions, such as a woman fleeing an abusive spouse with her kids, or the family breadwinner being suddenly struck down with illness, but I’m talking about chronic homelessness here, not temporary, emergency situations.

The second would be that addiction, mental illness, abuse, generational poverty and familial dysfunction all affect decision-making capabilities, so it’s not just a function of telling someone to stop doing self destructive things. A mind rotted by substance abuse, or struggling with PTSD, or that’s been beaten down by years of emotional manipulation (or suffering from all of the above) will not generally make rational lifestyle choices.

Wouldn’t it make sense then to target the decision-making influencers so people can begin to see their situations clearly and make better choices for themselves? To go after the root cause of why people end up homeless in the first place?

A non-profit organization called Solutions for Change  (SFC) thinks so and they operate off the radical idea that being homeless is merely a symptom of much deeper and more complex issues that need to and can be addressed.

Cue its Co-Founder and Executive Director Chris Megison,

“We’ve become a nation of symptom relievers thereby unintentionally escalating the very problems that we claim we care about. Most of the people who lose it all and wind up homeless have very serious problems yet for decades we’ve responded to those problems with soup bowls, shelter beds and even hugs. Those responses might make the person giving the food, shelter or compassion feel good but they do very little to solve the underlying source of the grief and loss that the person is experiencing.”

The Solutions For Change answer is to not just give someone shelter and food, but to also change their thinking process by requiring accountability in return. To live in housing provided by SFC, a person must remain sober and enroll in mandatory job training and life skills classes via their Solutions University program.

From the SFC website:

“Solutions University is focused on transforming lives permanently. From counseling services, to parenting classes, employment training and work experience, the programs at Solutions University create solid foundations that support meaningful futures for families in our program.”

Lots of common sense there, yes? Well no, not according to our government, whose Housing First policy prohibits federal funds for homeless prevention organizations that require abstaining from booze/drugs and participation in job and life skills training.  The thinking behind this, if you can call it that, is to stabilize a person’s living situation first and then work on the other stuff.

Are there cases where providing housing without sobriety mandates makes sense? Probably, but this population is limited, or it should be if the goal is to lead people away from the enslavement of addiction. Shouldn’t it be?  Plus it discounts the strong negatives that come with allowing addicts to maintain destructive behavior while living in close proximity to others struggling to remain sober. Add kids in to the equation and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Regardless, the local entities combatting homelessness in their communities should be the ones to decide what they think will work best, not the pointy-headed bureaucrats in Washington. This type of “help” from the federal government too often results in doubling down on processes that do little to move the dial towards self sufficiency and too much towards dependency on government.

SFC views this dependency as just as big a problem  as the other underlying issues that contribute to being homeless. It fosters a learned helplessness for those stuck in the cycle of poverty and addiction, where mental barriers to freedom become more daunting than physical ones

Screen Shot 2017-06-24 at 3.03.17 PM

Taken from the Solutions For Change website- a visual of the churn cycle that occurs when the root causes  of homelessness are not addressed.

The way SFC graduate Amber puts it on her blog post about her trip to Washington to lobby for change,

“The system keeps the poor, poor and no one’s life is better by getting things for free. We need to lift the poor and homeless up by investing in people and that just getting by is no longer acceptable.”

Exactly.  The homeless problem in this country is a national disgrace.  Living on the streets is now just another “lifestyle choice” and compassion means either letting people remain that way or providing housing with no expectations of behavioral change. That’s a societal fail in my view and a complete let down for the people that need accountability and a strong sense of moral direction in their lives the most.

Organizations like Solutions For Change are on the right track and we should be doing all we can to encourage them and similar entities to thrive.  The quotes below from survivors who have gone through their program speak to this.

“I’m workin’ on my self esteem, I’m workin’ on not feeling worthy”– Louise

“This is why I view the world like this and made the choices that I made.” –Amber

“Just being a productive member of society feels really good.” –Shannon

“I’m slowly gaining some purpose for my life.” – Lenny

“You do it (remain sober) because you have to, then you do it because you ought to, then you do it because you want to.” – Jared

“You can change, you can be better and you can do things different and it’s completely up to you to say that this is not how the story is gonna end.” – Jennifer

These are the words of victory, of minds chartered on a new course of empowerment and change. Want more? Go here and watch a few of their videos. I challenge you not to smile and cry while doing so.

Solutions For Change is a pioneer in combatting homelessness and healing families from the brokenness of street life and addiction. A nice side benefit has been a reduction in welfare rolls as participants transition from dependent wards of the state to healthy, functional and productive members of society.

In return, the federal government has shut off funding grants due to their program requirements on sobriety and job training, forcing the closure of its intake and access center shelter, which directly affected 14 homeless families and 24 children.

Aside from this, they are still fully operational and dedicated as ever in solving chronic homelessness and leading people to empowerment over their own lives.  They need money though, so if your heart has been touched by any of this, please go here to make a donation

To a view a letter from Solutions For Change founders Chris and Tammy Megison go here.

 

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14 Responses to Real Change For Real People

  1. Salvageable says:

    Thank you for sharing this information. Prior to the Sixties and Seventies, people who now are on the streets because of mental illness and substance abuse were institutionalized. Because some of those institutions were dreadfully cruel and abusive, nearly all of them were closed. I appreciate any group or individual aimed at helping these people have a better life. J.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tricia says:

      You’re welcome Salvageable and I really appreciate you bringing up the deinstitutionalization events from back then. I really think we need to take a hard look at what went wrong and consider using forced institutionalization again for a limited population, minus the abuse and wretched conditions of course. We should at least be talking about it.

      Like

    • Citizen Tom says:

      You may be right about some of those institutions being dreadfully cruel and abusive. I don’t know, but I think some politicians just wanted to spend the money on something else, more effective at buy votes. I also think Hollywood and the news media loved the story-line.

      At the time they started closing those institutions (many are still open) the drug companies started introducing medicines to treat the mentally ill. Those medicines help many but not all. Leaving mentally ill people on the street is a dubious moral decision.

      Only the government should have the power to force someone into an institution. Unfortunately, such power is subject to abuse. No easy answers.

      Even when a psychiatrist can find a drug that works well, some people have to be institutionalized for awhile. It can take time for a sick person to recover from an episode that throws their mind completely out of kilter. And the SFC does not seem to have a solution for homeless people who either still on drugs or unable to form and grasp onto a coherent thought. Still, what they do is an essential part of the solution.

      Great post Tricia!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Tricia says:

        Thanks Tom and yes I think SFC is more for those who have managed to elevate themselves through rehab and have a desire to not go back.

        What to do about the severally mentally ill though who do not want to come off the streets or take medicine? How do we best care for them without infringing on civil liberties? Is that even possible? I don’t know but it is something we as a society should be grappling with. It’s difficult stuff so too often it just gets ignored.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Citizen Tom says:

          It is easier to ignore some problems than it is to solve them.

          I am no expert. I have not put much research into the matter, but I think that most states have procedures for having someone committed. It is probably easiest when relatives get involved.

          When someone is committed, they have to have sufficient mental incapacity to satisfy the demands of the law, and I suppose that depends upon the state and the particular players involved.

          From what little I have seen, judges and the mental health community are highly reluctant to use force. It is an ugly thing to forcibly drug or straitjacket another person. Not many sign up for that kind of work. It helps some people, however.

          To live on the street requires some wits. Hence, I guess that is why the predominant preference is for a homeless person to seek help voluntarily.

          Consider The Parable Of The Prodigal Son. I suppose there are many occasions this parable applies to homeless. The Father did not seek His son. He waited anxiously for his return. That sort of applies to the lady in that video. However, I doubt waiting is appropriate for a lot of the homeless. Still, I don’t have a good answer.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Tricia says:

            Oh believe you me Tom, every bone in my freedom loving body screams NO to involuntary commitment, but then I walk past the neighborhood homeless guy with rotted teeth shouting obscenities to himself, his skin scraped raw from disease and exposure, and I think we owe him better than this.

            Getting someone committed is harder than you might think if they are not suffering from a dementia related disease. From what I’ve heard, there has to be a strong case of being a danger to others, even if family members are begging in desperation for help. It should be difficult to involuntary commit someone, but it’s still a very sad situation all around.

            Interesting website here on this issue, https://mentalillnesspolicy.org/ivc/involuntary-commitment-concepts.html They recommend a book called Madness in the Streets which I think I will pick up.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Al says:

    What a thoughtful and humanitarian post, Tricia. These folks at SFC are saints and realists at the same time.

    Just imagine, the government would rather just give something away rather than ask a person to “earn” it. What a shock. But then its not their money they’re giving away is it, so accountability never occurs to them. Trump is trying to change this, but I’m afraid he’ll fall far short before somebody takes him out or he is run out of town by some nefarious “investigation.”

    My jaded and cynical opinion not withstanding, this is such a worthy post that I have made a donation and referenced your post as the reason. Thanks for being such a concerned American, Tricia.

    Like

    • Tricia says:

      Well thank you Al for making a donation! They are a good outfit, your money will be put to good use.

      I agree, I think the Trump Administration will help with nonsense like this. Ben Carson running HUD was an outstanding choice. He got a lot of grief for his “poverty is a state of mind” concept but he was spot in in my view.

      Like

  3. Dennis says:

    Good post as usual Tricia. I’ve not heard of SFC but it seems like a great program. I will look into it a bit more.
    We all make choices in life and the subject of the video made a poor one initially. It is great to see she changed her life and is making good choices now.
    There are a lot of people out there that are homeless due to circumstances beyond their control and some by choice. I have spoken to those who do not want to join society but would rather live on the fringe and that’s fine. We still have free will. As long as we have free will there will be poor choices made and good choices made. We have to live with our choices. Blessed are the folks that help those that make poor choices and assist them to get back into society and gain self worth.
    Throwing money or a shopping cart at the homeless is not the solution no matter what the democrat party says.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      So true Dennis, the freedom to make lifestyle decisions also comes with the acceptance of consequences. If throwing money at the problem was the solution we wouldn’t have a homeless problem any more, right?

      Like

  4. This was awesome,Tricia. We are such a culture of “just treat the symptoms,”with so little awareness that the symptoms usually indicate a much deeper issue. For so long we’ve treated addiction as a dependency, a physical craving disease, without ever really asking why people turn towards addiction in the first place. I’m always saying, we pour things into the abyss of our souls and you have to address the abyss in order to figure out what really belongs there.

    Mother Teresa has a great quite that applies here, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Great information that needs to be made available to the public. We seem to turn the other way when the topic of homelessness comes up. Avoiding it will never provide a solution. Treating the “symptoms” (as you mention) will also never provide REAL SOLUTIONS. This is a “disease” just like one that attacks the body. Unfortunately, we live in a society that believes in addressing “disease” using “band-aides” (symptomatic relief) rather than addressing the ROOT CAUSES.

    I understand your emotional response well. I share a similar type of message using the same terminology to help people understand the bigger problems that aren’t being addressed. I hope people watch the video and take the lesson to heart!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      Jonathan I didn’t even think of the similarities between your cause of fighting the roots of disease and what I’ve outlined here. Bravo, you are so right! I guess it’s true of any systemic problem as well. And like anything it’s always easier to look for the quick fix.

      Thanks for coming by and your kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

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