Far too many people think that the transition from homelessness to a more “normal” lifestyle is a simple thing. Going back to work or having some sort of income and getting into housing are all that are necessary for the transition along with some easy lifestyle adjustments. Others may have a very general idea of the problems a homeless person faces during the transition.
In truth, there is no one solution to the problem. No one size fits all solution. Each homeless person, myself included, is a unique set of problems that must be addressed when the ex-homeless person arrives in his or her new home.
In every case there are some serious adjustments to be made and depending on the person these adjustments can be easy or hard for that person. All sorts of factors come into play. How long were they homeless? Are there any mental health issues? Are there addictions? What kind of support do they have? The list goes on. It’s really not that simple.
Speaking from personal experience, I can say that I have not even come close to being adjusted to this new lifestyle of mine. I have been working and living in my apartment for over a year now and I still think in terms of my old homeless lifestyle. In some ways this is good because my job now is doing outreach work to help the people who I used to hang out with. I can bring a unique perspective to my job that my co-workers don’t always understand without having directly experienced homelessness themselves.
But there is a down side too. In the last year since I left my tent in the woods, I have literally had at least 4 pretty serious meltdowns. Stresses that other people take for granted and can easily cope with are not easy for me. Job performance issues, money issues, social issues of all sorts and at all levels are only some of the things that cause me problems. Then there are issues that arise from my drug and alcohol addictions. Especially now that I can afford them. Or how about just dealing with the people, on a daily basis, with whom I used to live around, talk to and get high with. Only now I am on the other side of the fence, having to show them that I can do this.
Having a support or peer group helps. Talking to people I trust makes a difference. Writing in this blog does too as does just keeping a journal. I’ve talked to my manager at work. I’ve taken some classes designed to help me adjust to the new, not homeless lifestyle. After more than a year I am nowhere near readjusted to all this. i also now know that if I had just tried to do this on my own without all these other people, new people, people who want nothing more that to see me succeed, I would have by now lost my job and my new home.
But, keep in mind that what may be working for me WILL NOT work for anybody else who is coming out of homelessness. Everyone is unique with unique problems. There is no one size fits all solution to the problem.
One thing is completely clear. Just putting a homeless person into an apartment without ongoing and sometimes long term support of all kinds is not the solution. The “Housing First” approach is a good approach as long as there is the support needed to make the adjustment either through case management and an active support network for as long as it takes after moving that person into housing. Otherwise all you have done is moved a homeless person into a position where he or she will, not can but will, fail in the long run.