Many homeless difficult to rehabilitate

June 16, 2017

While it is highly commendable to want to help the homeless, and since most of the support will be funded by taxpayers, it is reasonable to determine the efficacy of homeless shelters. Statistics seem to support housing first rather than shelters, but even that has not proven to be highly effective (at least 19 percent are evicted from HUD projects within two years).

The difficulty in trying to help the homeless lies primarily with the underlying factors that lead to homelessness.

There is a very small percentage of homeless who find themselves in that situation due to death/divorce of the principal breadwinner, job loss, catastrophic disaster or serious health problem. Many people live at a poverty level that is just one incident from becoming homeless.

These people benefit from housing first, along with job skill training, money management or healthcare services because they do not have other factors, such as mental illness or drug/alcohol abuse. They benefit from empowering strategies and tend to be the success stories.

The statistics regarding other underlying factors of the homeless point to why shelters are not more successful, despite various care and treatment programs: 38 percent of homeless are addicted to alcohol while 26 percent use other drugs. Other statistics indicate seven out of 10 use drugs and alcohol, 25 percent have some mental illness, 20 to 40 percent have a disability. Of the mental illnesses: 13 percent are considered psychotic, 11 percent major depression and 23 percent personality disorder.

Additionally, 73 percent have an unaddressed health problem and 20 percent have committed a crime. Many homeless have deficits in social skills and demonstrate behavior disorders. These underlying factors are very difficult to treat and continue to negatively impact a person's success in entering the job market or living independently.

The recidivism for drug (62 percent) and alcohol (50 percent) abuse leads to the revolving door of treatment and sheltering.

Unfortunately, areas adjacent to shelters (residences and businesses) experience higher levels of crime. This puts a demand on police resources. Even though shelters tend to negatively impact surrounding areas, it is difficult to shut them down. Therefore, when shelters are proposed for placements near residences or businesses, it is understandable why there is objection.

The homeowners of Henlopen Landing are not heartless. In fact, many volunteer throughout the community. These homeowners have justifiable concerns about their safety and property value. They have worked hard and saved to be able to live in this area. It's not OK to disregard the statistics and their concerns.

As for the shelter, consider a place that would not impact residences or businesses. An example might be the location of the Home of the Brave.

Loydine Poloske
Henlopen Landing

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