Answer: It takes more than a home…

Question: “Can a home save the homeless?” That’s the title of Amanda Lehmert’s 11/16/2008 News & Record article on the housing support team program — an initiative to move chronically homeless people from the street into housing.

Vincent Sims used to sleep under the Lee Street bridge. He spent some of his Social Security money on drugs and booze. Banned from city shelters for schizophrenia- and drug-fueled outbursts, he sometimes got arrested just to have a warm, safe place to spend a few hours. And when he got out of jail, he’d go right back to sleeping by the train tracks or in abandoned buildings. Then one day last year, the Rev. Mike Aiken approached him with an offer: a no-strings-attached apartment through a new Guilford County program…

I met Vincent years ago. He is one of dozens of my friends who has moved off the street and into a home in the past year through the new housing program.

…The housing support team, a partnership between Family Service of the Piedmont, the Greensboro Housing Coalition and Open Door Ministries with help from local social service agencies, started searching for homeless residents in mid-2007.

“They had to be someone who is cycling through the system a lot,” said Mitch McGee, the housing support team coordinator. “In and out of jail, in and out of the hospital.”

Folks who continue to live on the street no matter how many times police pick them up or nonprofits feed them a hot meal. Folks like Reid James.

In the summer of 2006, James, a 47-year-old who suffers from bipolar disorder and depression, ran out of friends willing to take her in….

» Read “Can a home save the homeless?,” online at the News & Record
» Printable PDF of article
» See a slideshow of Vincent’s photos here.

Reporter Amanda Lehmert doesn’t address the program’s major flaw — serious problems with the availability and delivery of supportive services — a fundamental component of the program, and a necessity for the long-term success of the program’s participants.  YES! Weekly’s Jordan Green reported on that issue earlier in his 09/24/2008 article, “Formerly homeless clients find services lacking.”  Jordan interviewed some of the same folks that Amanda did, and my friend Reid James is featured in both newspaper’s articles.

I’d suggest reading both articles to get a fuller perspective on the housing support program — the good and the not-so-good.  I’m thankful for the program, but I want to see all the supportive services issues addressed so that our friends can truly experience recovery, health and wholeness.  Housing alone will not end homelessness.

Young and homeless in Greensboro

Earlier tonight, I was looking at a slideshow Beth made with photos of homeless young people from around the country. A few moments ago, I was looking at photos of young people who are homeless in Greensboro.

Chris is 18. He just got out of jail. Again. I don’t know where he’s sleeping tonight.

Michael is 20. He just went back to jail. So I know where he is tonight.

Melissa is 21. She just got back in town. She’s sleeping under “her” bridge again.

They are just three of many.

(I’m not posting their photos. But they’re all beautiful.)