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Human service workers help people who are homeless to meet basic needs. Human service workers may refer clients to a variety of providers, such as temporary or permanent housing facilities, organizations that serve meals, and job centers that can assist the client in learning new skills or finding jobs. Some clients can need help finding treatment to address and underlying cause of homelessness. Working closely with the client, human service workers identify problems and create a plan for service to help the client solve these problems. The process may include a multitude of helping techniques by evaluating the client support system, environment, and values are tailored to each individual’s needs. Human service workers cannot force help on someone who does not want it, and human service workers cannot take over a client’s life. Instead human service professionals tried to help every client make good decisions, find resources to overcome problems, and inspire the client to make improvements.
The goal of a human service professional when helping the homeless population is to provide every resource possible to help the client not only find housing, but teach the client the skills he or she need to meet his or her basic needs. Affordable housing and poverty a lack of affordable housing and the limited scale of housing assistance programs have contributed to the current housing crisis and to homelessness. Recently, foreclosures have also increase the number of people who experienced homelessness. Ageism and big companies downsizing has also played a factor in homelessness. Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked. Poor people are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, shelter, health care, and education. Difficult choices must be made when limitedresources cover only some of these necessities. Often it is housing which absorbs a high proportion of income that must be dropped. If you are poor, your essentially an illness, an accident, or a paycheck away from living on the streets (cited from national homeless.org).
In 2011, the official poverty rate was 15%. There were 46.2 million people in poverty (cited from national homeless.org). Two factors that help account for increasing poverty in America or lack of employment opportunities with unemployment rates remaining high, jobs are hard to find in the current economy. Even if people can find work, this does not automatically provide an escape from poverty and homelessness. Decline in available public assistance help keep people in poverty and homelessness. The declining value and availability of public assistance is another source of increasing poverty and homelessness and many families leaving welfare struggled to get medical care, food, and housing as a result of loss of benefits, low wages, and unstable employment. Additionally, most states have not replaced the old welfare system with an alternative that enables families and individuals to obtain above poverty employment to sustain themselves when work is not available or possible (cited from national homeless.org).
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, two trends are largely responsible for the rise in homelessness in America over the past 20-25 years: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty. Persons living in poverty are most at risk of becoming homeless. In the United States, homelessness is an undeniable reality that impacts people of all ages, ethnicities, and life circumstances (cited from the National Coalition for the Homeless). Many factors can contribute to a person becoming homeless Poverty, Lack of affordable housing, Job loss, Lack of health care, Mental illness, Substance abuse, and Domestic violence (cited from the National Coalition for the Homeless). Serving people with substance abuse and mental disorders who are homeless often is not a matter of choice. The clients are there! Implementing specific programmatic elements to meet their needs serves to make interventions more successful and cost-effective. It also enables staff to work more efficiently. In this sense, specialized homelessness services are an essential ingredient forquality and effective care in your organization.
Many of the clients you serve are not homeless when they come into treatment but, for a variety of reasons, become homeless during treatment and have no place to live once they complete intensive treatment. Other clients receiving behavioral health services are just one paycheck or one personal or family crisis away from homelessness. Still others enter treatment because they need shelter. Having a staff with the knowledge and skills to anticipate and address these issues will help your program run more smoothly and with better outcomes. The National Alliance to End Homelessness states that there are 633,782 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the US. 142,168 (22.1%) are children, 62,619 (13%) are veterans, and 269,991 (42.6%) are disabled and unable to work (cited from (http://www.endhomelessness.org/) Address the interpersonal skills needed to work with this population. Human service professionals present his or her best selves to the public. Clients moods change, but your customer, external or internal doesn’t care. Make a conscious effort to be your most positive, enthusiastic, helpful self, even when that’s not how you feel. If you need to vent, do it in private (Bly, 1998). Human service professional call people by his or her names and ask questions about the coworker live. Take the time to learn and use everyone’s name, especially secretaries.
Most people don’t. You don’t have to glad-hand, but if you see a child’s picture on someone’s desk, take time to ask “How old is your daughter (or son)?” Establishing some common bond makes the other person more receptive to working with you. Listening carefully before speaking. A sure sign you are not listening to the speaker is that you can’t wait to say what you want to say, and as soon as the other person pauses, you jump in and start talking. Even if you think you know the answer, listen to the other person. His knowledge and grasp of the situation may surprise you. If not, listening shows you considered his opinion. Address personal and professional qualities that help human services professionals successfully work with this population. Poor communication is another barrier to working effectively with others. For human service professionals, communicating with clients disrupt the helping process is particularly problematic and frustrating. Listen and make sure you understand. Listening is a skill that requires your full attention. Don’t have a conversation while you’re checking your e-mail or searching Websites. Do one thing at a time, and you will do each thing well. Use the 80/20 rule. The most effective communicators spend 80% of their time listening and only 20% talking.
Many of us like to lecture, pontificate, or explain details of no interest to the other person. Instead, let your listeners tell you what they need and want, then give it to them (Bly, 1998). Does this population require differential treatment? Why or why not? Is there anything that warrants a change in the human services worker’s style, behaviors, or attitudes? More than 16.1 million children in America are poor, but they live in working families. A disproportionate number are Black and Latino. Poor children lag behind their peers in many ways beyond income: They are less healthy, trail in emotional and intellectual development, and are less likely to graduate from high school. Poor children also are likely to become the poor parents of the future. Every year that we keep children in poverty costs our nation half a trillion dollars in lost productivity, poorer health and increased crime (cited from http://www.childrensdefense.org/policy-priorities/ending-child-poverty). Include strategies to use and actions to take to improve your professional skills in this area.
Social workers should act to expand choice and opportunity for all people, with special regard for vulnerable, disadvantaged, oppressed, and exploited people and groups. Social workers should promote conditions that encourage respect for cultural and social diversity within the United States and globally. Social workers should promote policies and practices that demonstrate respect for difference, support the expansion of cultural knowledge and resources, advocate for programs and institutions that demonstrate cultural competence, and promote policies that safeguard the rights of and confirm equity and social justice for all people. There are a few things you can do to bring people who are affected by a problem into the problem-solving effort. These will help whether you wait to recruit them to participate in listening sessions and committee work, or to help empower them to get more involved in organizing and advocacy.
Is there anything that warrants a change in the human services worker’s style, behaviors, or attitudes? It is important to emphasize that homelessness is a problem that deserves the attention of behavioral health organizations. Some of the clients your program is currently treating maybe homeless or at high risk of becoming homeless within months of their discharge from the program. People who are homeless report more problems related to alcohol use, drug use, and mental disorders than those who are not homeless. Findings from studies of Midwest urban samples of people in shelters, food programs, or living on the street report high rates of problems related to substance use (58 percent of women; 84 percent of men [North, Eyrich, Pollio, & Spitznagel, 2004]; 55 percent of women; 77 percent of men [Forney, Lombardo, & Toro, 2007]).
People need to have a sense of direction with something to look forward to in order to get and stay involved. Working towards common goals gives people a special bond, enabling them to work together as a team and making them care more deeply about the work they’re doing. Come up with clear plans and realistic goals. It’s also important to come up with a practical, achievable timeline. If people see nothing happening–or if they feel too rushed–they will lose interest in being involved, so know how to pace yourself. Creating a timeline allows you to see what is complete and what still needs work, in addition to giving everyone a clear idea of a realistic pace. Periodically remind group members of their goals and their timeline in order to keep them focused and inspired.
Address potential challenges and how you would meet and overcome them. Making homelessness services apriority for your program will increase the capacity of the program and the skills of the clinical staff responding to various other social and health needs your clients may have, such as transportation services, health care, financial management, and responses to criminal justice issues. In this sense, programming for homelessness benefits all clients, not just those who are currently or potentially homeless (Penner, 2005). There are two important ways to involve people affected by homelessness helping to solve the problem.
First, human service professionals can listen to the client so that the human service professional has a better understanding of the causes of the problem, the barriers he or she have to managing or preventing the problem, and the client ideas for solving the problem. Second, he or she can become involved through participation in the initiative or program that is being developed by helping empower the client to tackle the problems he or she confront. It’s always better for people to participate, but if those affected by the problem don’t wish to, listening to the client is a good way to start building rapport with the client.
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