The Changing Needs of the Homeless

By Dr. Chad Audi

Everyone knows the basic services provided by most homeless shelters: a place to sleep, nourishing meals, clean clothes and a hot shower. But today there is a need to expand those services to provide many more opportunities for the growing number of disadvantaged people looking for another chance in life. As far back as the 1990s, the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) recognized that need and began to adapt. The Mission changed its whole image from just being a soup kitchen that only addressed the needs of the hungry to becoming a complete support system for the homeless, addicted and disadvantaged. Yes, we continued to care for the hungry and provide them with meals and clothing, but we also began to help them find a permanent solution so that they would never have to look back at the past. Instead, they can focus on the future. The Mission provides food, clothing and job leads. It reunites the homeless with family, places them in churches, and surrounds them with a very strong support system independent from an institutional setting. Additionally, the Mission offers programs to help a person successfully reintegrate into society, including job training and education — whatever he or she needs to learn or regain valuable skills.

For a long time, the DRMM simply performed the “front work” — keeping a person sober by treating his or her addiction. We discovered from our data that this did not always produce a long-lasting solution. It is just the first part of the answer. The second part involves the creation of collaborations to help the person become successful on a long term basis. In other words, we felt we need to teach people how to fish, not just give them a fish. Plus we needed to bring those support services directly to the person. We can’t expect a person who was lost at one point in life to know where or how to find these opportunities on their own.

Approaching the issue of homelessness in this comprehensive manner produces positive results. All individuals are treated with dignity and respect. They are exposed to the unconditional love of God. Not only are a person’s “surface” needs met, but so are their physical and spiritual needs. This is what keeps a person from returning to addiction, homelessness and despair and creates hope for the future.

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