Investment Impact

  • Investment Impact

    Can We End Addiction-Related Homelessness with a Mountain Climb?

    - by Gina Haines

    As a result of the opioid crisis and addiction problems plaguing our society, homelessness continues to be on the rise. Every night, more than half-a-million people in the United States are in search of somewhere to sleep.

    When they’re lucky, they find a shelter, or doorway, or a bench, or a patch of grass or asphalt. The unlucky spend their nights wandering, or under arrest, or in any number of dangerous circumstances.

    And every morning, there are a few who don’t wake up.

    Homelessness is a life-and-death issue and addiction plays a large part in the problem. Many of our nation’s homeless who also suffer from a drug addiction have that much more to overcome and are that much more at risk. While there are many programs and shelters doing terrific work to help our homeless population, they don’t have space or the resources to help everyone.

    And few programs have proven successful in helping to lift people out of their addictions and as a result, homelessness permanently and productively. Why? Because they aren’t equipped to treat the root causes like addiction, and because there are too many lives that need saving today to make adequate plans for tomorrow.

    We need to change the paradigm. We need better long-term solutions for homelessness, for addiction, and for giving everyone the help and the tools for self-help they need.

    Climb Out

    Of the 540,000+ homeless people in the US, more than 21,000 of them are here in Washington State. Well over half of Washington’s homeless citizens are located in the Seattle-Tacoma area—one of the most affluent and high-tech regions in the country.

    In cities with many “haves,” the plight of the “have-nots” becomes even harder to witness.

    But homelessness isn’t simply a matter of economic hardship. For many, it is tied to lives of abuse, neglect, drug addiction, and other mental health issues. For these people, finding their way to a happy and productive life means undergoing a more intense and profound healing process than finding a new place to call home.

    They need a way to take back control, and to build the skills and strengths they need to move up and beyond the positions, they’ve landed in.

    Since 2011, our organization has been working with two local shelters to give recovering addicts a life-changing experience—one that allows them to truly climb out of homelessness. Each year, individuals demonstrating success in a broader recovery program receive nearly 10 months of physical and mental training in preparation for a summit of Mt. Rainier. The five-day trek is one that few people from any walk of life attempt, and marks a significant triumph for those with a background of drug dependency and shelter insecurity.

    This year, we’re holding a Fundraising Climb to raise funds to help serve more people. Eight donors will be joining us on a climb that follows a route our program participants may take, right up to the peak of Mt. Rainier. These donors can’t get their alone, though—they need your help, too, because they’re each raising funds to sponsor a minimum of two recovery climbers in 2019.

    Please consider making a contribution to one of our donor climbers. Together, we can take steps to end homelessness once and for all, one summit at a time.

    To donate, or to learn more about our organization and our Fundraising Climb, please click here.

    SIGN UP TO PARTICIPATE

    Want to donate to a participant’s climb? Visit https://donate.recoverybp.org, search for the climber you want to support and make your donation.

  • Investment Impact

    Homelessness in Our Community: WHY our work is needed and HOW you can help.

    - by Gina Haines

    “Seattle’s homelessness crisis has been years in the making, and its roots run deep, touching racial inequity, economic disparities, mental health treatment, rising housing costs, mental health, addiction, and so much more. We have a responsibility to be honest that this crisis won’t go away overnight. Lasting, meaningful progress will take years. But we still must act – and are acting – to improve life in Seattle.” – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan

    Scott Greenstone, the Seattle Times “Project Homeless” producer and engagement editor, stated that one way to help the homeless in Seattle is to shorten the wait time to receive mental health and addiction treatment services. “It’s common to wait a week or two – sometimes as much as a month –for an appointment.”

    In a report done in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 34.7{637c4c527fde39f83a380e19107d2ba88ad72607f37ccf8f8b7edeff1c20688c} of sheltered adults who were homeless had chronic substance use issues (SAMHSA) and over 80{637c4c527fde39f83a380e19107d2ba88ad72607f37ccf8f8b7edeff1c20688c} have experienced lifetime alcohol and/or drug problems. According to Seattle Major Jenny A. Durkan’s website, drug overdose is currently the leading cause of death among people who are homeless. More individuals seek detox for heroin than they do alcohol in King County. Due to the lack of beds in Washington (Washington state is ranked 47th in the nation for psychiatric beds per capita), there are more than 150 people on a waitlist for treatment every day! The City of Seattle has allotted a $78,00,000 budget for Homelessness Response in 2018, which includes areas such a shelter, hygiene and outreach, permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing and diversion, prevention, access to services, operations, and more.

    Recovery Beyond’s Climbing Out program has shown an optimistic success rate in helping individuals holistically through recovery by weaving together socialization skills and teamwork with physical activity. As noted in a Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, amended in 2015, entitled “Opening Doors”, individuals who are homeless struggle with having a non-existent or frail support network. The interpersonal skills Recovery Beyond teaches are important in the recovery process because they remove the “us vs. them” mentality and increase the likelihood of recovery due to better, supportive relationships. In the past three years, nearly all participants in the program have remained sober. This is incredible. On average, it takes an individual about seven attempts to achieve lasting sobriety.

    We need to do everything we can and have all-hands-on-deck if we are going to help homeless individuals in recovery. We are asking for your help: Homelessness can’t be solved overnight. It’s a process of recovery, achieved one individual at a time.
    Homelessness continues to be on the rise in King County, according to All Home, an agency that works collaboratively with other organizations and institutions in the county to significantly reduce homelessness. At the time of data collection in 2018, the homeless population in King County was at 12, 211, rising by 469 individuals from the previous year. Over half of the homeless population lives unsheltered, and the remaining live in vehicles, buildings, tents, transitional housing, villages, and emergency shelters.

    The housing crisis is just one of the many causes of homelessness, but currently grabs more media attention than other causes. Other factors that contribute to homelessness include domestic violence, certain disabilities, untreated mental illness, medical bills, and addiction. Individuals may utilize substances to alleviate the discomforts they are experiencing, whether it be the challenges of an undiagnosed mental health disorder, physical pain, or a coping mechanism for a life situation, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce. There are several factors that can lead to substance use disorders, including social factors, genetic predisposition, availability and tolerance, and other mental health problems.

    Will you support our efforts? A monetary donation will support our mission. Please click here to donate.

    • Current Statistics on the Prevalence and Characteristics of People Experiencing Homelessness in the United States[PDF]. (2011). SAMSHA.
    • Greenstone, S. (2017, November 24). One way to help homeless in King County? Shorten the wait for treatment. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/one-way-to-help-homeless-in-king-county-shorten-the-wait-for-treatment
    • L. (2016, January 21). Homelessness Programs and Resources. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/homelessness-programs-resources
    • Opening Doors[PDF]. (2015, June). United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
    • The Roots of the Crisis. (n.d.). Retrieved July 4, 2018, from https://www.seattle.gov/homelessness/the-roots-of-the-crisis
  • Investment Impact

    NOT Going Home – Homelessness Shows No Signs of Going Away

    - by Gina Haines

    Image courtesy of The Gospel Herold.

    On November 17th right before Thanksgiving, the Puget Sound Business Journal published a set of articles about recent reports about Homelessness in the Seattle area. There were several take aways:

    1. Homelessness is growing; the causes and issues are complex, and few solutions have worked.
    2. The government agencies that are accountable for addressing the issues caused by homelessness do not work together coordinating programs, services or budgets. A result is a silo approach which provides a variety of opportunities for people to fall through the cracks; unable to get the help they need to get off the streets.
    3. Often homelessness is a byproduct of the rapid rise in rents and the low number of affordable housing units available; job loss or a medical issue; with single-parent families being among the hardest hit and with the fewest options for shelter and support.
    4. The homeless population is straining the city and county budgets and resources at current levels; the growing numbers have decision makers very concerned about the near future. There isn’t a concise method of even reporting all the costs involved with the impacts of homeless individuals. Current measurement methods do not capture the cost causers across organizations and agencies.  One article highlights the $746 million spent on a “disjointed patchwork” of programs; which include money donated to non-profits that deal with part of the problem. No one group provides services for all levels of need. See “Levels” chart below.
    5. The report also calls out the myths surrounding homelessness. The Seattle Report cited the following examples:
      • 90{637c4c527fde39f83a380e19107d2ba88ad72607f37ccf8f8b7edeff1c20688c} – Of homeless individuals said they would move into affordable housing if available.
      • 41{637c4c527fde39f83a380e19107d2ba88ad72607f37ccf8f8b7edeff1c20688c} – Of homeless individuals said they were working full or part-time with some employed in temporary and seasonal positions.
      • 30{637c4c527fde39f83a380e19107d2ba88ad72607f37ccf8f8b7edeff1c20688c} – Of homeless individuals noted that job loss was the primary reason they were on the street.
      • 70{637c4c527fde39f83a380e19107d2ba88ad72607f37ccf8f8b7edeff1c20688c} – Of homeless individuals said that they could only afford $500/month for rent.
      • 258 – The number of people added to the homeless population each time rents increased 5{637c4c527fde39f83a380e19107d2ba88ad72607f37ccf8f8b7edeff1c20688c}.
    6. Homelessness is rooted in shortcomings of other systems, such as foster care, incarceration policies, mental health practices and general drug and alcohol addiction crises. A general lack of mental health providers and case managers were also cited.

    Annual Homelessness Count

    Each year a count is taken to determine the homeless population in the Seattle, King County area, please see chart below for the last seven years. The previous four years have seen dramatic growth across the region. One report showed the about 40{637c4c527fde39f83a380e19107d2ba88ad72607f37ccf8f8b7edeff1c20688c} of our homeless population are not originally from the Seattle – Tacoma area.

    On the east side, the number of homeless families has grown tragically. There are no homeless shelters which cater to families with young children currently on the east side. A new family day shelter opened about a year ago. If money can be raised and property found, the hope is that this shelter would expand to offer year-round full time living options. By using a coordinated approach, over 40 families have found transitional or permanent housing and have moved off the streets.

    Seattle’s new Mayor Jenny Durkin is quoted as saying “We are this prosperous city in the most prosperous country of the world and yet we have thousands of people sleeping in tents and doorways. We need to do better”. We believe we can do better.

    Community Impacts

    Homelessness is a community problem, systemic inefficiencies, the opioid crisis, and the increased number of deaths due to overdosing impacts everyone. Violent crimes are up; homeless people get sick more often and burden the healthcare system. The cost to treat someone from the streets is four times higher than someone with a home.  Other data provided additional grim realities:

    • Estimates show that 12,000 homeless people live in King County’s six sanctioned encampments. There are 400 other unsanctioned encampments, many living in cars or in overnight shelters.
    • $1.06 billion is spent annually in Puget Sound to respond to homelessness and its issues.
    • The estimated cost of house and care for our homeless would be $192 million a year.
    • None of the costs mention includes those incurred by the Seattle Police Department or Harborview. Public agencies don’t uniformly track costs; so it is difficult to see the whole picture.
    • There is no system to identify the homeless; so they may end up being recycled through the medical system and jails without ever getting them the help they need, for example, mental health prescriptions or addiction treatment.  Washington State ranks 47th in the nation for access to mental health services according to Mental Health America.
    • The US Department of Housing has not allocated a penny for public housing since 1996. Future budgets are not hopeful either.

    Solutions

    The only real sustainable solution is prevention. By preventing people from falling through the systemic support cracks, we could prevent homelessness in the future. But first, there is still a lot to learn about the causes and issues around why people end up on the streets right now. This problem is an individual one; each person comes with their own story. Each story has implications for a different set of circumstances, root causes.  A plethora of possible changes would be necessary to address these outcomes and alter their results. One approach is developing services, providing case management resources and additional funding safety nets to help vulnerable people and their families. It also means being ready to tackle upstream problems. There is little doubt that it would be cheaper and less traumatic if we could stop homelessness from ever occurring; rather than treating it as we are today.

    Addiction may be the most important root cause today, especially with the growing opioid problems across the country. Possible solutions would need to include:

    • Additional treatment centers and increased number of beds for those ready to enter treatment. Until the individual is prepared to address the causes of their addiction, their behavior won’t change.
    • The small number of affordable or low rent housing units and rapidly rising rents mean that more people with little or no earning power are at risk. This is especially true for those with disabilities or limited capacity.
    • Often transitional housing is the first step toward re-entering society; job training, counseling, medical services are all part of the safety net to keep people off the streets. Social services that offer case management support are the quickest way to assure all the issues are being identified and an action plan developed and monitored to alleviate problems and keep them from repeating.
    • Some large and small employers are beginning to work together to supply part of the missing services. This is a sign of hope. It also allows them to find valuable future employees once underlying issues have been addressed and job training or needed skills are gained.

    Why do we care? We see the spectrum of need and fill a small role in assisting people in their recovery process by offering physical fitness, companionship, and mentoring to develop the socialization skills necessary to be part of the team and to learn to set goals, helping our recovery participants to succeed. By working with mission partners, we augment the treatment program they offer. We’ve measured our results over the last three years and have seen an 85{637c4c527fde39f83a380e19107d2ba88ad72607f37ccf8f8b7edeff1c20688c} sobriety rate. We believe that after seven years, we are ready to help more people in our community to find the healing and peace they need. Our community will be better off as a result of a more coordinated individual approach and by building the safety net many need. We aren’t giving a hand out; we’re helping by providing a hand up. Please consider how you can help. After all, we are in this together.

    The Truth About Homelessness (Infographic)

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