By Dr. Chad Audi
Recently, I wrote about the U.S. government’s new comprehensive plan to end homelessness among veterans, children, youth and families. Now comes word from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that the number of families staying in homeless shelters increased by nearly 40,000 from 2007 to 2009. The total number of homeless families — identified in the report as at least one adult and one minor child — stood at about 170,000 last year. And unfortunately, it looks like the numbers will continue to grow this year.
A sinking economy resulting in long-term unemployment and foreclosures is primarily to blame. At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we have seen a 30 percent increase in requests for our services this year. We’ve provided emergency shelter to nearly 3,200 individuals over the past year, treated more than 900 men and women for substance abuse, and placed almost 680 homeless people in transitional housing. In all, DRMM impacted the lives of 5,508 people through our programs this year. And the year’s not over yet.
It’s particularly heartbreaking to see children affected by homelessness. They are innocent and have no say in their families’ financial situation. DRMM provides housing for teen mothers and their children, as well as substance abuse treatment for women with children. We have preventative activities for kids, including a summer camp, aimed at keeping them from going down a path that could lead to homelessness in the future.
Last year, the federal government made $1.5 billion available to states through the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. The funds are being used to help keep families in their homes or to get them back in one quickly if they lose their house. The Obama administration’s new homeless strategy, “Opening Doors,” outlines collaborations between federal, state and local agencies to end homelessness among families by 2020. We’ll all need to work together to make this a reality.
By Dr. Chad Audi
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an estimated 1.5 million people experienced homelessness last year in this country. This summer, President Barack Obama laid the groundwork for helping America’s homeless veterans and families with young children when the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness announced the nation’s first-ever comprehensive plan to address homelessness. Titled “Opening Doors,” the 67-page strategy increases the role of the federal government in preventing and ending homelessness. Through federal, state and local collaboration, the plan aims to end homelessness among veterans and the chronically homeless by 2015 and among children, youth and families by 2020.
How is the government proposing to do this? The plan details several projects that would assist the homeless. Examples include:
• Combining Section 8 housing vouchers with other assistance to help 6,000 homeless families
• Using vouchers funded by Medicaid and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to assist 4,000 chronically homeless people in getting off the streets
• Helping homeless veterans get into housing quickly through a collaboration of local housing and social services and the Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program
At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we strongly believe that you must attack the root problems of homelessness. What led to a person’s life on the streets? How can we keep it from happening over and over again? The answer lies in providing educational and vocational opportunities that will lead to successful jobs and careers. DRMM’s many academic and job training programs are ever-evolving, and through partnerships with colleges and universities we are able to teach our clients valuable skills that will help them reverse the cycle of homelessness.
The second part of the answer involves the availability of transitional housing and affordable housing. In addition to emergency shelter, DRMM provides transitional and permanent housing for our clients. Many of them will tell you there’s nothing like knowing you have your own living space, whether it’s a single room or a multi-room house. It’s also the Obama administration’s contention that people need a home before they can address the underlying problems in their lives.
I believe the White House plan is on the right track. Affordable, permanent housing is essential, and support services collaborations between agencies and governments do work. Hopefully, with commitment and dedication from all the stakeholders, this combination will prove successful in changing the face of homelessness in America.
By Dr. Chad Audi
Last month, the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) celebrated our 101st anniversary with an inspirational event featuring emotional testimonials from our clients, a delicious dinner prepared and served by DRMM clients in our culinary arts program, and music performed by our clients.
Since 1909, DRMM has provided services to tens of thousands of people in the community. We feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the poor, treat the addicted, educate the disadvantaged, and save lost souls. As you can imagine it takes a lot of money and resources to provide the volume of services that we offer. That’s why my primary goal at the DRMM anniversary celebration was to show our friends and supporters exactly how their donations are making a difference in thousands of lives.
There’s no better way to illustrate this than hearing the personal stories of people who came to the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries when their lives were on a downward spiral. We heard from a gentleman whose former lifestyle resulted in him being stabbed and shot numerous times. Today he works as a DRMM staff aide and attends a local community college. A female client described her longtime drug addiction and how DRMM saved her life. She is now celebrating eight months clean. And a young, single mother of five talked about her drug addiction and a long string of abusive relationships with men, which led to her children being taken away. Today, she has been reunited with the kids and has completed one year of college.
We often hear people lament that they want to know how their tax dollars are being used. But do you also know how your donation dollars are being used? Do you realize how important your donation dollars are to non-profits like DRMM? I hope so. Charities across the country are making a difference in so many lives. And it will make you feel great to know that you are part of those miraculous transformations.