At face value, the cause of homelessness for most of our clients seems pretty clear – they don’t make enough money to pay their rent and utilities. Many of them have no jobs, or if they do it is a part-time and/or minimum wage job. So what they need to do to stabilize is get a job, or get a better job, or get a second job, right? What could be more simple?
Were it only that easy! In truth, the causes of our clients’ homelessness – and the solutions we have to find in order to overcome them – are both broad and complex. Certainly, there are some who come to us for help who have the abilities to be independent and have been in the past, but simply hit a hard time for various reasons and just need a little help and support until they get back on their feet. For them a safe place to stay, a little help with transportation, some encouraging words, and they can fairly quickly get back on their feet. But these kinds of situations are a very small portion of who we serve. In fact, Pilgrims’ Inn has built a reputation for taking in (and taking on) persons with very difficult situations to resolve, and very complex and difficult barriers to stabilizing. We frequently accept shelter clients that have been refused by other shelters due to the expected difficulties of getting them “on their feet”, as well as persons who have been at other local shelters but had to leave without seeing any real improvement in their situations.
The following list includes real life examples of just some of the daunting challenges our clients have had to work to overcome, and in most cases they have faced down a combination of these factors:
- Poor education, no high school diploma, no job skills, have been out of any kind of formal school for years.
- Low self-esteem and low confidence, to the point of feeling paralyzed and hopeless about ever finding a good job.
- Poor physical health, including chronic pain, weakness, frequent bouts of symptoms that prevent going to work. conditions that require heavy medication.
- No clothing that is appropriate for either job interviews or to wear to a job once hired, and no money to purchase new clothes, even from a second-hand store.
- Mental health challenges, including a chronic condition such as anxiety disorder, bi-polar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, etc. In many case their brain chemistry literally betrays them, making them vulnerable to poor judgement and odd or destructive behaviors. Deep depression – a frequent occurrence for those who have struggled with homelessness and risk for any length of time – can be paralyzing, regardless of good intentions.
- Lack of safe, affordable child care – if you don’t have a safe solution for someone to watch your kids while you’re working, you can[‘t exactly lock them in a box and go to work anyway.
- Children with chronic health problems can cause parents to miss too much work time while either seeking medical treatment for their child or simply staying home to take care of them, leading to lost jobs.
- Lack of transportation – once you get a job you have to get there! Missing too many shifts due to not being able to find a ride leads to quick termination.
- Poor dental health – very few of our clients can afford a dentist. If your teeth are unsightly, ache all day, and cause severe bad breath, it is next to impossible to put your best foot forward to either get a job, or keep one.
- Having grown up without any good role models of responsible adult behavior. Many of our clients have not learned good “people skills” and /or work ethic to apply to an employment situation. If they have poor manners, are frequently not on time, are emotionally immature or volatile, are impatient or disconnected, they are unlikely to get hired and unlikely to stay employed once they get a job. While it may seem difficult for some of our readers to understand, if you grow up in a family where these kinds of behaviors are the norm, it is very difficult to even recognize how they can hamper success, and even harder to change.
- Alcohol and drug abuse – something people in a great deal of pain and fear often turn to as a means of finding relief – make it nearly impossible to remain stable enough to handle the demands of a regular job.
We have a broad range of programs and a very skilled and dedicated staff that address these kinds of issues and many more, but turning life-long destructive patterns and realities around can be daunting, difficult, and sometimes expensive. It is also a process that does not happen over night. One of the main reasons a significant portion of our clients give up before they can fully stabilize is because the hard work and risk of facing down a plethora of these issues, coupled with the frequent set-backs and disappointments that most of our clients experience, can simply wear a person down. Of course, the flip side of this struggle is, there is nothing quite like sharing the moment when a beaming mom who has toughed it out for months to overcome a long list of challenges sails down our hallways to joyfully announce “I got the job”!
There are many ways you can be a part of the solutions that help even the most challenged of our clients to make their way to a better life for themselves and their children. You can support us financially, to help make sure our programs continue to be available to serve as many clients as possible; you can bring donations of items such as food, cleaning supplies, furniture and household wares to help clients who do not have enough; you can volunteer your time for anything from cleaning, to handing out food orders, to reading to children, to helping transport, and much more. If you are an employer, you can talk with us to see if we have clients who could meet your needs for new employees, or if we could incorporate training or other preparations to help someone become a good fit for your organization.
If you’d like to know more, I invite you to give us a call and explore the possibilities.
Pilgrims’ Inn – 803-327-4227 – firstname.lastname@example.org