An open letter from a faith-based volunteer to the professionals that help the homeless in the community…

This is a guest blog provided by John Horn. John is a friend and reader of the blog who works in the field of homelessness and is also a man of devout faith. He has penned this response to the Open Letter to Faith Based Organizations blog I wrote a few weeks back. I respect his opinion, input and response, and with his permission, I am posting it as the blog for this week. 

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One Truly Beautiful Thing

Homelessness is human suffering. You cannot spin human suffering. But you can still decide to do one truly beautiful thing. Maybe that is once per day. Maybe once per week. Heck, maybe once a year.

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Leading Change

The 2016 Leadership Academy in Ending Homelessness is in the books. We had another sell-out this year, with participants from three countries. Clear to me: we need to keep investing in leadership if we want to achieve complex social change. And homelessness is definitely an example of complex social change.

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An Open Letter to the Faith-based Group that Wants to Help People that are Homeless

Dear (insert name of church, temple, synagogue, mosque, etc.),

In the name of (insert deity believed in/worshipped), I understand you are called upon to help humankind as a way of living your faith and putting into practice the teachings of your religion. This is most welcome, and we are grateful that you have chosen to help people that are experiencing homelessness. I am an expert in the field of homelessness, so while it is unsolicited by you, I want to take this opportunity to fill you in on ways that would be most helpful, and the stuff you may be thinking of doing that will just get in the way of what experts are trying to achieve.

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Museums of Suffering

The tour. You have been on one or given one. You walk through a homeless shelter or day centre or spend a night on an outreach van or a morning at a soup kitchen. You see the things that go on there. You meet the people – the program participants, residents and clientele; the staff; the volunteers. When these same buildings and programs are anchored in more traditional models rather than being focused on rapid exit from homelessness into housing they become, by definition, homelessness as a museum – objects of historical, scientific, artistic or cultural interest are stored and exhibited.

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Making Change Happen

I do listening sessions with groups of case managers and outreach workers in several of the communities where we do work. It is their chance to share what is working and not working in their practice, and gives us the opportunity to identify strategies or techniques they can try to improve their practice. I absolutely love doing them, and can often see the frustrations experienced turn into optimism.

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Learn. Grow. Implement.

Theory. Practice. Implementation.

These are the three key ingredients to knowing how to make change in operations in your approach to ending homelessness. Very recently, we announced the Learning Clinics in 2017. These are the next big step (risk?) we are taking at OrgCode to enhance the knowledge-base in ending homelessness, and help communities achieve sustained reductions in homelessness.

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Crazy Sh!t, Volume 3, 2016

Time for everyone’s favourite blog – the crazy shit from July, August and September.

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A Bias Towards Longevity

One of the weirdest things about homelessness is that the longer you are homeless, the better you are at being homeless. And many services – government, not for profit, faith-based, etc. – feed into this bias. They are generally difficult to navigate unless you have been in the system for a long time.

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Passive to Active: The Role of Day Services

Historically, day services of all kinds (known by names like drop-in centres, day centres, day shelters, resource lounges, open spaces, gathering spots, and so on) played the very important function of giving people that are homeless refuge during the day. This has been especially important in neighbourhoods or communities where shelters are open over night, but lack resources to stay open and serve people during the day. The day services have met a huge array of needs. Often they provide a meal or snack. In the winter they give escape from inclement weather and in the summer a respite from the heat. Bathrooms are almost always available. Many have showers or laundry facilities. It is not uncommon for there to be socio-recreational activities, and/or opportunities for people to mingle and engage. Some bring in external resources like health care, legal services, or even help filing taxes or applying for benefits.

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