System Requirements

Posted: June 11, 2008 in Goals, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness

Over the last several weeks I’ve been working with a new piece of computer software. It’s an application that is used for creating 2D/3D animations.

While I had been negotiating the contract for a project, I came to realize that the software that I’d already had wasn’t up to the task, so I needed to find software that would allow me to do what my client needed. And the hunt began.  

There are two things that a person needs to consider when looking for software to accomplish a certain task. The first is the learning curve: how long will it take to become familiar and adapt enough to use the software to its largest potential in the shortest and most reasonable amount of time. Since I’ve been involved with computer technology nearly three-quarters of my life, I’ve learned certain types of "shortcuts" which allow me to minimize the learning curve, as well as the ability to begin productively using the new software while I’m in the process of becoming familiar with it.

The second thing a person needs to consider when acquiring new software are its system requirements.

For example, you will more like as not be able to run some of your old software on one of today’s computers. But, it’s highly unlikely that you’d be able to go out and buy some of today’s software and be able to even get it to run on a ten year old PC. And if you did, it would probably run so slowly – and ineffectively – that it wouldn’t be worth the investment. It’s just a reality that the software which is being developed in this day and age requires the processing power of today’s computers.

What it comes down to is this: today’s computer operating systems (e.g. – Windows XP; Windows Vista; Mac OS) are "backward" compatible, meaning that they can run yesteryear’s software, but yesteryears operating systems are not "forward" compatible, meaning that they cannot run software designed for today’s computers.

Now, it has occurred to me that taking the basic concept of "system requirements" and applying it to homelessness may provide insight as to why homeless support services agencies and organizations – as well as local governments – have failed at reducing the numbers of homeless in our nation’s communities.

The approach that local governments take is usually to enact ordinances that penalize or restrict the movements and actions of their local area homeless. Even the 10 year plans to end homelessness that so many local governments all across the nation are adopting are destined to failure because what these ten year plans really do is mimic programs that are already in existence. It’s a matter of double redundancy. No new ground will be covered. The result will be that the numbers of homeless will not be reduced.

As for homeless support services agencies, they are stuck in a rut as well. They are ineffective and failing at the task of reducing the numbers of homeless in their communities because they do not meet the minimum "system requirements."

In the last two or three decades, the demographics of homelessness has changed exponentially. The homeless are no longer winos, drunkards or just derelicts. The homeless of today include families with dependant children; senior citizens and persons with physical or mental health issues.

However, homeless support services organizations are still operating under the "flag" of emergency shelters and services providers. That would be fine if homelessness were an emergency situation which lasted only a few days, or even a few weeks at a time. But the reality is that those persons who are currently becoming homeless are finding themselves remaining homeless for extended periods of time which can last for as much as a year or more. Clearly then, providing emergency homeless services are not coming anywhere near meeting the "system requirements."

What is required to meet the need of today’s homeless is a system that provides for long term services. That means providing for more than just a meal and a bed – and that’s really all that the majority of homeless support service agencies do provide.

It’s easy to pass it off and say that they cannot offer more because there is a lack of available funding. That may be true – but only up to a point.

I’m convinced that there are certain types of services which homeless support service agencies could actually provide right now – in this day and age – that do not require an increase in funding. There are some basic services that would require only a change in their standard operating procedures which would bring these agencies out of the "dark ages" and into the 21st century, making them effective at helping to reduce homelessness within their own communities.

As someone who did experience homelessness, I am acutely aware of what types of services – had they’d been available – would have significantly reduced the amount of time I spent homeless. And those types of services would not have required an increase in funding. But, they would have met the "system requirements" for helping to get me off of the streets in perhaps half the time it actually took for me to escape homelessness.

I’ll agree that an increase of funding for homeless support services would be beneficial. However, as long as those agencies and organizations persist in doing things the same old way just because "…that’s the way it’s always been done" they will continue to fail at reducing the numbers of homeless within our communities.

Unless these agencies begin meeting the minimum "system requirements" and adapt to the needs of today’s homeless demographics, there is no amount of funding that will make the slightest bit of difference. And, the numbers of homeless will continue to increase.


What's your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s