Moving from Enablement to Engagement
Prepared by Robert G. Marbut Jr.
- Move to a Culture of Transformation (versus the Old Culture of Warehousing):
Homeless individuals must be engaged and no longer enabled. Everybody within the services delivery system (eg general public, media, elected politicians, appointed officials, monitors, boards, staffs and volunteers of service agencies and most importantly the homeless themselves) must embrace a culture of transformation. A culture that through the help of others homeless individuals can transform and integrate themselves back into society. For moral and fiscal reasons, homelessness must become an unacceptable condition that is not tolerated in the USA.
- Co-location and Virtual E-integration of as Many Services as Possible:
In order to increase success, all services within a service area must be e-integrated. Virtual e-integration improves coordination of services, enhances performance, reduces gaming of the system, engages individuals on the margin of society and increases cost efficiencies within and between agencies. Furthermore, whenever financially possible, services should be co-located. Co-location goes beyond virtual e-integration by increasing the number of "service hits" into a shorter period of time through the reduction of wasted time in transit and minimization of mishandled referrals. Co-location also increases the supportive "human touch."
- Must Have a Master Case Management System That is Customized:
Because there are so many different service agencies helping homeless individuals (eg government at multi-levels, non-profits and faith-based), it is critical that ONE person coordinates the services an individual receives and to do so in a customized fashion. The types of service provided is critical, but what is more important is the sequencing and frequency of customized services.
- Reward Positive Behavior:
Positive behavior should be rewarded with increased responsibilities and more privileges. Privileges such as higher quality sleeping arrangements, more privacy and elective learning opportunities should be used as rewards. It is important that these rewards be used as "tools" to approximate the "real world" in order to increase sustainable reintegration into society.
- Consequences for Negative Behavior:
Too often there are no consequences for negative behavior. Unfortunately, this sends a message that bad behavior is acceptable. Within the transformational process, it is critical to have swift and proportionate consequences.
- External Activities Must be Redirected or Stopped:
External activities such as "street feeding" must be redirected to support the transformation process. In most cases, these activities are well-intended efforts by good folks, however these activities are very enabling and often do little to engage homeless individuals.
- Panhandling Enables the Homeless and Must Be Stopped:
Unearned cash is a very enabling and does not engage homeless individuals in job and skills training which is needed to end homelessness. Additionally, more often than not, cash is not used for food and housing but is instead used to buy drugs and alcohol which further perpetuates the homeless cycle. Homeless individuals who are panhandling should be engaged into the transformational process. Furthermore, most panhandlers are not truly homeless but are preying on the good nature of citizens to get tax free dollars.
Strategic Homelessness Action for Pinellas County Area