Butter Knives

Posted: September 29, 2007 in Homeless Shelters, Homelessness

There is a saying about using the right tools for the right job. Take butter knives for example.

A butter knife is designed for spreading things like butter, peanut butter, jam, cream cheese and other spreadables onto breads and other foods. If you wanted to cut a steak, you’d used a steak knife. Right?

The right tool for the right job.  

The weird thing is that I’ve seen people use butter knives in ways they aren’t designed to be used. I’ve seen people use butter knives as screwdrivers; to pry things open or apart; and in any number of other ways. When that happens, usually the butter knife and the thing they’re "working" on end up getting damaged.

The right tool for the right job.

I’m wondering if the reason that so many homeless fail to receive effective help from most homeless support services organizations is that we’re simply not using the right tools?

I’ve often said that places like homeless shelters and day centers for the homeless have a serious need to be overhauled so that the genuinely provide homeless services that aid the homeless in transitioning back into the community. I’ve rethought the situation through however. Perhaps part of the solution isn’t about bringing these types of organizations "up to date." Perhaps what we need is for someone, or some group to figure out how to institute a new type of homeless service agency – one whose sole and ONLY purpose is to provide the homeless with the tools necessary to help them rise up and out of homelessness.

Let the homeless shelters continue to provide food and shelter. Let the day center provide a place where the homeless can gather during the day. But the task of guiding and steering the homeless to those resources that would help the homeless raise their standard of living should be in the hands of those who want to see the homeless become non-homeless.

I’m sure that someone is going to say that there are numerous agencies that already do that. Perhaps. But not in this area.

Supposedly the SLO Economic Opportunity Commission is doing that, but from what I see them doing, it’s not much. They oversee the day center and the homeless shelter, and yes, they do offer "case management" but that doesn’t seem to be reducing the numbers of homeless in this area all that much. Their success rate is miniscule to non-existent.

Their success ratio is so small in fact, that if it were a birthing center they’d  be producing more stillborns than live births. And, any birthing center that has such a low success rate at producing live births would certainly be under some sort of investigation.

The homeless who do manage to get out of homelessness and back into society are doing it without these agencies. And, because they have to do it on their own, it makes the climb that much more difficult and that much longer. The consequence is that by the time they’re able to climb out of the hole of homelessness, there are two others who have taken their place in the hole.

The ugly reality is that we’re not doing all that much to help the homeless transition back into society and regain a firm foothold. As a result the numbers of homeless are increasing at an alarming rate.

My question is: how long are we going to wait before we take serious action?

Are we going to wait until the numbers of homeless are so great that we become incapable of actually making a difference?

One thing is certain: if we don’t get off of our collectives behinds and begin working toward finding a solution, the flood gates are going to burst and we are ultimately going to find ourselves in a position where a viable solution is no longer possible.

We need to begin implementing the right tools for the right job. Unless we do we’re going to create more damage than good.

Just remember, when you use a butter knife as a screw driver you end up ruining both the butter knife and the screw.

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Comments
  1. Wanderingvet says:

    You might have the right tools already and not know it.
    Well as a homeless citizen maybe I can enlighten some things here in this artictle. I enjoyed the analogy of the wrong tools for the job. First off I really enjoy your city there, when I was prosporous in life it was one of the places I had considered settling into,after visiting there five or six times, and still one of the places I am considering visiting as homeless! (I know the mayor is calling up the governor for the national guard now).

    Now about the tools. First off, visual appearances. The book was judged bye its cover as unworthy, and put back on the shelf.

    Some homeless people just really do look like crap. Uneducated, substance abusers, with serious health and mental issues. Oh if we helped all of this group, we would flood the state health system to capacity and we cannot do that. Besides they would all relapse anyway. So we did not do anything here either.

    The third group has education (some even masters degress, mid 40’s, or 50’s, veterans, long time employees of companies that left the country), speaks english better than the people that are assisting them, are more qualified than the people that are assisting them, and scares the hell out of the people that are assisting them of reversing roles on them. they are given a firm hand shake saying thanks for coming, and you will hear from us. Of course no one from any of the above group does.

    You have a bunch of politicians who’s dream is to load them into cattlecars and dump the homeless off a cliff, and Social Worker Employees that need them for a job and telling their leaders it is getting worse so they can keep their jobs and funding. Its ludicrous.

    Because they are homeless, few have email, a cell phone, presentable clothes for an interview etc.

    Maybe if you have a system being triaged by the homeless for the homeless you might find the right tool.

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