In my last post I said:
We need to re-visit the issue of the root causes of homelessness and use our findings to publicly articulate an actionable plan to reduce homelessness. We need to wrest control of the issues from interest groups and some activist organizations which, in my opinion, have co-opted the true needs of our homeless friends. We need to make recommendations that can be life changing and give hope to our entire community.
Naturally, this has garnered a fair level of criticism from some existing homeless service providers. I ask once again that people who are working so tirelessly to improve the lives of our homeless friends not view the ongoing quest to redefine the root causes of homelessness as an indictment – our goal is to identify major risk factors before people become homeless and to do this we must move out of the realm of considering homelessness primarily as a poverty issue. This can only strengthen existing homeless services. In contrast to “housing first” based efforts, as a grassroots program Project417’s #whyhomeless movement will be a people centered community development effort.
We’re not alone in our search to re-define homeless services. Alan Graham, founder and president of Mobile Loaves and Fishes in Austin, Texas recently announced a groundbreaking program to survey the homeless themselves to determine their critical needs. He posted this startling declaration:
ISSUE: Despite decades of heart-felt attempts at finding solutions, millions of dollars and countless hours of effort, the homeless services system in the United States is officially broken. There are few, if any, large, transformational, paradigm-shifting programs that are effectively, productively and permanently moving homeless people off of the streets and into meaningful and purposeful solutions. Many services are tiny band-aids on a gaping and gushing wound: one meal for a person who doesn’t have a regular source of nutrition, one counseling service with no continuation of care, one night of shelter in a public, crowded facility. In August 2009 an Austin collaboration will be conducting a landmark survey of the area homeless population. The goal is to better understand the needs of the chronically homeless, in hopes of creating transformational change. The results of this survey will be the foundation for a full day educational and community action symposium in March 2010. [in Austin, Texas]
At Project417 we believe that people have priority over money, structures, systems and other institutions. At Project417, a program of Ekklesia Inner City Ministries, our Executive Director, Rev. Joe Elkerton has a long history of ministering to and advocating for the homeless in Toronto going back over twenty years. He promotes a vision of people centered community development. From the Project417 mission statement on our website:
Our definition of development is –
“people in community engaging in a spiritual, social, physical, economic and political process of positive transformation towards a sustainable future”.
People centered development focuses on the well being of people and their living system while promoting the worth and dignity of all human beings. It therefore encompasses value change, popular participation, human resource development, gender issues, appropriate technology, children’s issues and sustainability.
People centered development “emphasizes the process of development and its essential focus on personal and institutional capacity”. It also rejects the notion of experts, asserting instead that no one is outside of the development process and that each person has something to contribute as sell as something to learn.
People centered development seeks the active involvement of all stakeholders in every stage of the development process. It affirms the worth and contribution of every community member. It promotes transparency, justice and equity, asserting that the first priority in resource allocation should be the achievement of community objectives related to the satisfaction of the basic needs of all community members”.
In my last post, I invited any and all who are interested in resolving homelessness in our communities to join a “taskforce” to determine the root cause of homelessness with the purpose to prevent, treat and heal homelessness. More correctly it should not yet be referred to as a taskforce because the root issues are not yet defined, so specific tasks can’t be assigned. We need innovative problem solving techniques to be applied in an environment that fosters freedom of thought and unity of purpose. We, like Mobile Loaves and Fishes , need to remember the most important stakeholders in this process – the homeless men, women and children themselves.
You can be a valuable part of this process. Join the #whyhomeless movement. Submit a comment here. Re-post this on your blog, share it on Facebook. Email a link to your friends, post it on Digg or Reddit. Visit Twitter and connect with me @canayjun or other friends like @MLFNOW , @_CSM_ , @joeelkerton or @invisiblepeople. Tweet homelessness issues to the world on Twitter and include the tag #whyhomeless so we can track the movement.
Come back and visit the blog here for the next post in this series.
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