One Idea: Homeless Sponsorship by a Community Organization or a Church

30 06 2009

by: Jacqueline Go

Goal:

Help one homeless person at a time, by providing community support for one low needs homeless person and housing them for a fixed (less than 6 month) period of time in order to get them off the streets while providing a longstanding connection between the homeless community and the community at large.

Below is a description of the different groups who would be involved in this project and their possible roles:

Outreach Workers and Organizers:

  • Outreach workers know the homeless people in the Tri Cities personally. They can nominate one client to be sponsored, based on criteria that we as organizers prescribe. They can provide reasonable estimates regarding what is needed for the nominated client to get off the streets. These needs can be fulfilled by the church/community organization, and can include things like: healthy meals, tutoring and education, help with applying for jobs, etc.
  • Example criteria: We are looking for a homeless person who is “low needs” – they do not face the barriers of drug addiction or mental illness.
  • They will estimate what is needed to get them off the streets – what the church/community organization can provide through regular citizens who want to volunteer
  • They will estimate how long they will need these housing and support services for in order to get off the streets. They should nominate people who need housing for up to 6 months.

Church/community organization:

  • Buy/ Rent a one bedroom apartment in the Tri Cities
  • Find a suitable location – we will develop ideas for how to scan the region for reasonable priced locations
  • Perhaps can get a cheaper price from a developer? Or from a member of one of the church communities.
  • A church/community organization will sponsor one homeless family. They will:
  • provide funding for the apartment
  • provide volunteers to do the services necessary for the homeless family. These include cooking, tutoring, transportation, and others as identified.

Mutual Benefits:

The homeless client gets connected with the community, helping them be reintegrated into society and increasing their likelihood to help themselves out of homelessness by providing community care and support.

The community gets connected with volunteer opportunities to help the homeless. I believe that there is an abundance of people who are willing to volunteer their time to help the homeless in the Tri Cities. There is always an overflow of volunteers at the Cold Weather Mat Program and this program only runs from November to March. This program would allow community members to take shifts helping the homeless family – donating the groceries and coming to the apartment to cook and have a meal with them, teaching them life skills, and the other needs as identified.

The funding needed to acquire the housing location is the first step in this project. It may depend on whether each church already has a fund with collected money for homeless missions. Currently we are considering alternative ways to fund this project – either through donations (asking the church/organization to fund the project) or through a property management scheme (using a business idea to make the project self – sustaining and not depending on donations)

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments as we develop this idea.

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4 responses

6 07 2009
Dignity Advocate

Jacqueline,

This is a great approach. I am trying to get our local church and community garden to allow a few people to camp in our gardens – here in Portland, Oregon. It’s a bit like pulling teeth though – because of the heavy-handed, cold-hearted influence of insurance companies and some landlords.

I belong to a new group locally which believes that the homeless should be allowed to A) build their own simple (straw bale, etc.) shelters on idle public lands, and allowed to B) garden, barter and work toward self-support on those same lands. Done right- with proper supervision and instruction, this can make for real dignity and at a time when otherwise people remain on the streets waiting for 2 years on average for housing. The Homeless Garden Project, Santa Cruz, CA is a great model – though not quite what we are proposing.

Still, part of the solution is cooperative, real action by private groups and individuals, as you suggest. I want to hear more about this!

Dave
http://dignityadvocate.wordpress.com/

7 07 2009
Jackie

Hi Dave,

It’s nice to hear from you. Thanks for your feedback. I do hope that our projects can work to engage private groups and individuals. I think many people want to help, signaled by the overflow of volunteers we have had in the Tri Cities for our past homeless projects. Right now the biggest obstacle we are considering is the best model for raising funds for the housing unit. We are considering a few options, one of them being giving circles where people have the opportunity to invest responsibly in a housing unit, earning a modest return on their investment while receiving rent in the form of the $375 per month on welfare benefits for each homeless person who would live in the housing unit. More details to come soon.

Look forward to keeping in touch.

Cheers,
Jacqueline.

10 07 2009
Beatrice

This sounds like a great idea! If this plan is implemented, it will lend a face to the problem of homelessness. It may also help with reducing stigma. If you now know someone who is homeless and that person’s story, I think you’re less likely to dismiss homeless people as “bums”.

My only question is regarding the point that Doris made in class about how church-based organizations made hungry, homeless individuals sit through sermons before they were given food.

If we ask churches to help sponsor individuals who are homeless, will there be attempts to convert these individuals? If there are these attempts, how do you feel about help with “strings”? I think that if churches helped out and said, “We want to help you. Here’s what we can do. By the way, if you want to learn more, here’s more information and you can ALWAYS ask one of us about our faith” then that would be a truly awesome way to help. What do you think?

I’m really enjoying your blog. Keep up the good work!

13 07 2009
Jackie

Hi Beatrice,
Thanks for your comment! I definitely agree with your approach of churches helping out while not being pushy about converting people. As with anything in life, faith is not something that you can effectively impose on people but is rather a decision that each person makes for themselves. Similar to our homeless sponsorship idea, we need to find a homeless person who has a strong desire to get out of homelessness, and will work to do this for themselves, with our support. I guess we have all met or heard of the pushy church goer who tries to impose their beliefs on other people; we also know that this doesn’t work at all and in fact pushes the person farther away. I think the goal for churches is rather to help the person and be so kind to them that it makes the person ask, what makes you do all these nice things? And then the church volunteer would explain that they are simply treating others as they would like to be treated and are Christ followers, and can explain more to the person about the faith, only if they wanted and were invited to do so. Also for our idea, we would want to attract volunteers for the entire community.

Also, to comment on Doris’ comment about places in the DTES that provide food after a sermon. One thing to note about this is that these places in the DTES are not shelters or food banks, rather they are places of worship and churches. They serve food after their services because of the needs of the people, but some of these are simply regular churches whose main goal is to minster and provide hope to people in the DTES. Take a look at one of them if you want more info: http://www.pottersplacemission.com/

Thanks for your thoughts Beatrice, and thanks for reading our blog!

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