It is human nature to consider your own personal experiences when forming opinions about things. Most of the general population has never experienced the kind of trauma that comes with homelessness. As a result, we naturally form opinions based on the visible signs of homelessness around us such as people with cardboard signs on street corners, people outside of stores asking for change, people talking to themselves at bus shelters, or people pushing carts full of their belongings along the sidewalk.
But, what about the homelessness we never see? The husband and wife quietly living in their van in a remote corner of a commercial parking lot; the young man whose mother recently died who is living in his car with the only thing he has left of his mom, her cats; or the man who is holding down a factory job but has no car or place to sleep and just needs a shower so he can keep working.
The fact of the matter is, there are people suffering from homelessness who we simply don’t see and the reasons they became homeless are varied. Most often, homelessness starts when a person can no longer afford to pay their housing and other bills and they do not have a safety net of friends or family they can depend on. Other factors include skyrocketing rents, fleeing abusive or life-threatening home situations, health issues that lead to a loss of work, or low wages that make it impossible to support a family, let alone a single person.
While there are many complex reasons that lead to homelessness, the city of Glendale is committed to solutions, and we believe we can solve this growing crisis. But to do this, we need the help of communities and neighborhoods willing to stand up for solutions that work.
First, it is much easier and more effective to prevent homelessness than it is to re-house people. If residents want to help reduce homelessness, one of the best opportunities is to actively support the development of new affordable units with higher densities. These developments will add much-needed housing inventory and provide safe places for low to moderate income households, which will go a long way toward preventing homelessness. Additionally, we need residents to support intermediate housing options, including both emergency and transitional housing options. We simply cannot build permanent housing quickly enough, so intermediate options are needed now.
Second, if you can give, do so in a way that is helpful and avoid giving to panhandlers or participating in activities that do not connect homeless people to services. Instead, consider giving or volunteering with formally organized service providers that have a proven track record of success in delivering homeless prevention or housing placement programs.
Lastly, know how to get people in your community connected to homeless services. In the city of Glendale, if you see a homeless person that appears to be in need, go to glendaleone.com, select the service request type “homelessness,” and we will send a street outreach team to engage to see how we can help.
Through our partnership with Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) and more than 15 related partners, we provide a wide array of services designed to meet people where they are and help them on their path home.
For more information about what we are doing in Glendale to address homelessness, tune in to the City Council workshop at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 10 at glendaleaz.com/glendale11.
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