Recently I led a 3-day Faculty Faith Learning Seminar for Westmont College in which I walked the faculty members through the needs of “Vulnerable Street Populations.” These populations include adult individuals experiencing homelessness, street youth, and survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
One thing I have noticed about “housed populations” is their tendency to under-appreciate the absolute value of their home, whether they own or rent. We don’t appreciate how it essential our homes are to our entire health. Our ability to rest, have regular meals, socialize, stay clean and healthy rests upon the stability of our shelter.
The truth is that people generally can’t get “well” if they are living on the streets. What's more, the length of time on the streets is also correlated to how they are doing holistically. Time on the streets take a toll on every individual’s mental health, physical health, and relational health.
Once people have secure space they can begin to consider how to get well in other areas – including making wise long-term decisions. So often we expect people to make smart decisions for the long-haul when all they can consider is how are they going to find a meal or a safe place to be for one night.
This is the reason I push for “Housing First.” "Housing First" is a national mantra in support of client-based housing which seeks to house individuals before asking them to make other health decisions, but is can also be a more general statement of how we can help all these vulnerable street populations.
The photo above shows a Tiny House under construction in Santa Maria, California. Tiny Houses are a trend of the future – and I am currently imagining how we might house survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in these houses. We have to be creative and think outside of the box if we are going to help house vulnerable women with little or no current income.
SBACT will always stress the value of housing for the most vulnerable – something we who are housed often take for granted.