Winter is just around the corner, and I can’t help but think back to last winter and the harsh weather conditions we experienced. Extended periods of frigid temperatures and snowstorms paralyzed much of the country. It was truly a winter unlike any we’ve seen in a while.
Here at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), our shelters were filled beyond capacity as the homeless sought refuge from the severe winter blast. If the next few months are anything like that again, I am sure we will witness the same reaction from the area’s homeless. And, who can blame them?
In the meantime, a 2010 federal strategic plan designed to prevent and end homelessness is showing some progress in getting the homeless off the street. The comprehensive Opening Doors strategy developed by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness aims to end veterans and chronic homelessness by 2015, and to end homelessness among families, children and youth by 2020.
Opening Doors centers around an idea called “Housing First,” which focuses on finding permanent housing immediately for the homeless. Putting a roof over their heads is considered priority one. Once they are properly housed, then the focus shifts to addressing their personal issues, such as substance abuse, mental health treatment, or unemployment.
While I applaud any effort that gets us closer to wiping out homelessness, DRMM is a firm believer in first treating the whole person who comes to us for help. Only after the addiction has been overcome or new job skills are learned to make them employable again or God becomes an integral part of their lives, can the formerly homeless maintain hope and become productive citizens on a permanent basis.
Without a doubt, the path to ending homelessness must engage a combination of housing, healthcare, education, job training, and other human service programs.
Meanwhile, DRMM awaits the winter weather — prepared to shelter all who come to our doors seeking a safe and warm haven from the cold.