The world of homelessness is complicated. Think of a collage of faces - teens living on their own, children living with their families, single moms and dads and their children, two parent families, and adults who have been living on the streets for years. The needs are very different and the solutions are just as varied. It’s a complicated picture.
We don’t pretend to be an expert in providing services to anyone but homeless families. We focus on families because the lives of the children can be changed if their parent(s) can get on their feet. And, we focus on equipping the parents to provide for themselves and their children.
We’re about to enter into a study with Dr. Jeff Ehrlich from Park University to identify the characteristics of the families who succeed and those who fail. So, I’ve been analyzing the data we already collect to find correlations that predict success (leaving for permanent housing) for our families.
The strongest correlation I’ve found isn’t with the length of time they stay in our program or even whether they are employed when they leave (think subsidized housing). The strongest correlation is with their self-sufficiency scores at entry. No big surprise really. It fits with the conclusion a friend of mine drew in her doctoral thesis studying homeless teens. Inner resiliency was a key factor for the teens who were able to exit homelessness.
From personal experience, I know that the loss of a spouse is one of the biggest blows in life. But, I was fortunate. My husband was older, our children were grown and helped in his care. My employer gave me family leave. He had life insurance, and I didn’t lose my job.
We all experience difficult passages in our lives, but we have different “safety nets.” Mine was bigger and stronger than our single dad.
Please remember that you can’t paint the homeless with one brush. The lives of homeless families are complicated in ways you may never experience, but you can hopefully understand.