By Barbara Comito – Director of Marketing & Communications UGM
The following lines from “Expanding the Toolbox: the Whole-of-Government Response to Homelessness,” October 2020, help explain the current situation in the Spokane area.
“The federal government’s policy shift in 2013 to prioritizing ‘housing first’ as a one-size-fits-all approach has not worked to reduce homelessness for all populations and communities.
“Policies that do not address the real root causes of homelessness … have exacerbated the homelessness condition in America.
“As many community leaders are coming to realize, the status quo is simply not working. Reforms and changes are needed to reverse the growing homelessness crisis in America.”
The numbers paint a clear picture: Government spending on homelessness went up from 2013 to 2019. Way up. And so did the number of people experiencing homelessness. As an action step, the report calls for an expanded toolbox: going beyond housing first as a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s not that affordable housing isn’t critical. It is. But it’s one tool not the whole toolbox. It needs to be accompanied by robust wraparound services. And that’s where programs like those offered at UGM enter the picture.
UGM seeks to provide whole-person healing, along with accountability, job training and support for ongoing recovery. Underneath homelessness is often addiction. Underneath addiction is usually trauma, often childhood trauma but also domestic violence and sexual abuse. Trauma-informed care – one-on-one and group counseling – is necessary to bring healing. “To change what you do you must change who you are” – Michael Dye in Genesis: A Relapse Prevention Workbook.
Behavior modification isn’t the answer. People need to address the childhood wounds that brought about their self-destructive behaviors. As those wounds heal, individuals need to be given the dignity of work and personal responsibility. Then, they need a network of support – work, church, 12-step groups – to stay the course.
One Example — Sarah was on the run for nine years, chasing her addiction. It wasn’t until she found out she was pregnant with her son that she decided to get help. She came to UGM mostly looking for a safe place to stay for her and her son but found so much more! “I don’t identify myself as an addict anymore.” Today, she has her own place, custody of her son, and is happily working in the billing department at Northwest Ob-Gyn. She loves the job, and they love her. Nurse manager Davitia Robbins said this: “I think that any business that is looking to clean up Spokane, they could do their part by doing this. This program is successful. This kind of program should be adopted by the city, the state. I mean if that is someone’s goal, to help people on the street.”
Watch the rest of Sarah’s testimony here.
STEPS BUSINESSES CAN TAKE
HAND OUT RESOURCE CARDS (UGM has them; SNAP has them) with a bottle of water or granola bar FIRST CALL FOR HELP 24-hour mental health crisis intervention 509.838.4428 CALL 211 or visit spokanecares.org for a list of available resources.
CALL 311 to report homeless camps.
CALL 911 to report violent individuals.
EMAIL, WRITE, OR CALL the Mayor’s office and City Council members with your concerns.
EDUCATE YOURSELF UGM has a free e-book, “Homelessness 101” with definitions of terms, stats and other info, available here: https://info.uniongospelmission.org/ homelessness-101
TO DONATE, GO TO UNIONGOSPELMISSION.ORG/DONATE