~ Stay tuned for the latest happenings ~
Psychological Informed Environments (PIE) website shares how to better serve people experiencing homelessness and complex trauma, among other issues. They have also developed a page dedicated to a Pretreatment approach for homeless outreach.
- 5/18/2016 – Presentation via Brown Bag Lunch gathering at DMH offices on Homeless Outreach, Housing First & Pretreatment
- 10/8/2015 – Presentation on Homelessness and Mental Health @ Westfield State University – went well. Here’s my 15 minute presentation on Homeless Outreach, Pretreatment, and Housing First. We had over 80 people in attendance including students, professors, and human service providers, as well as others from the community.
- 7/30/2015 ~ It was a pleasure meeting the staff at Dial Self Youth Programs in Greenfield, MA and we enjoyed our discussion on the challenges of Housing First and utilizing Pretreatment Strategies with homeless youth.
- Ways of Helping the Homeless – 2 Minute Video
- New Book ~ Pretreatment Guide for Homeless Outreach & Housing First is now available. Chapters include narratives on serving couples, youth, and the challenges of Housing First, as well as Meaning Making and the Art of Common Language Construction, among others. Check out the press release here.
- Chapter 7 entitled-“Youth Homelessness: Freedom, Rebellion, and the Search for Camaraderie” from the new book has been nominated for a Pushcart Literary Award
Book Review ~ Pretreatment Guide for Homeless Outreach & Housing First
This book is essential reading to both people new to the movement to end homelessness and folks who have been in the trenches for many years. Learn how to do effective outreach with the chronic homeless population, and the ins and outs of the Housing First model. The personal stories and the success cases will give inspiration to work even harder to help both individuals and for ending homelessness in your community.
Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing
National Coalition for the Homeless
8/10/2014 ~ Here’s the author’s latest radio interview on homelessness issues across America via KYGO – Denver airwaves
Magazine publication of Green Heritage News Network
Michell Spoden — Despite having a team of American astronauts land on the moon more than 40 years ago, America still has around a a million homeless people many of whom don’t even have a shelter and have to live on the streets. This situation calls for attention on national level to alleviate the suffering of these people who are vulnerable to rough weather, accidents, crime, and all kinds of risks that arise from lack of comfort of a house to live in.
After reading an interview with Jay S. Levy, author of the books Homeless Narratives & Pretreatment Pathways: From Words to Housing and Homeless Outreach & Housing First: Lessons Learned, I contacted him to tell us more about important issues on housing for homeless people in the US. Following is the first of a series of my questions which Jay Levy answered, explaining, informing, and suggesting solutions to manage homelessness in America.
Q: Are you aware that in most cities you must first be in a shelter to get any help for housing or have an eviction notice from a landlord? Why does it have to get to this point for folks before they get the help they may need?
Jay Levy: I share your frustrations about a system of care that is often broken or dysfunctional. Much of it comes down to adequate resources and actual caring. Something happens over time where good people with great intentions often get wrapped up in a system and set of services that is so fixated on eligibility restrictions that it no longer seems to serve a humanistic purpose. You pose an excellent question for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as State level agencies such as the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
These Federal and State agencies provide a great deal of the funds and policies that are used to help homeless individuals and families. When these funds are awarded to various local, private non-profit agencies, they come with a set of rules and expectations. One such requirement is the HUD definition of homelessness, which excludes people who are doubled up without their own residence, and only includes folks who are living in Shelter, on the streets, or living in a place not meant for human habitation, such as a car or an abandoned building. This year, the definition has been expanded via the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act to include women in domestic violence situations and youth (24 years old and under) who are moving from place to place. So doubled up youth now qualify, if they do not have a permanent residence and have moved at least twice in the last 60 days.
Similarly, there is a specific definition for “chronic homelessness” that used to apply only to individuals, but now has been expanded through the HEARTH Act to include families. The good news is that the people who meet these various definitions qualify for greater levels of assistance and aid. The bad news is that there are a great deal of Federal and State regulations imposed on local agencies to help determine who gets the aid and assistance versus who doesn’t qualify. When Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program dollars (HPRP funds) came out under the Obama administration to help prevent homelessness that would otherwise occur due to the worst economy since the great depression, this money was accessed by a broad range of people. Unlike the limitations indicated in your question, many people got help to pay back rent even though they were not yet in the process of eviction. This was a true prevention program! At the same time, others complained that there was not enough regulation to make sure that these federal dollars targeted those who were most in need and consequently the funds were quickly spent.
My educated guess is that the people in charge of HUD, HHS, and others believe that regulation is a necessary evil so you don’t have a mad rush for limited benefits and affordable housing resources. Based on the budgets these agencies are granted, there is not enough money to address the size of the problem. It really is a supply and demand issue that is managed via regulation and limited resources, as opposed to economic policies that foster higher wages, less unemployment, and affordable housing options. The problem with this approach is that it severely limits prevention dollars, which if targeted properly could lead to a great deal of savings, less homelessness, and better health outcomes for families and individuals.
Some viable options are for local agencies to raise their own funds, or to access grant money that comes with fewer stipulations. This could create flexible pots of dollars that can be managed on a local level to respond to local needs. One example is that in western MA, there are a number of colleges and universities that may be willing to donate funds to support local efforts of addressing poverty and homelessness. Another way to go about things is to develop working partnerships between helping organizations and private enterprise to create job training programs and housing solutions that could create a well-trained pool of job applicants, reduce homelessness, and improve the neighborhoods where businesses thrive. Sometimes, assistance is available through the faith community (local church, synagogue, Salvation Army, United Way) or via Community Action agencies that may assist with accessing benefits or temporary funds. At very least, there is a great need to create more affordable housing options matched with a good set of support services for those who are most in need.
There are clear benefits as evidenced by numerous studies that have shown that Housing First consisting of rapidly housing vulnerable homeless individuals with support services reduces medical costs and saves lives. I discuss some of these studies by Dr. Sam Tsemberis, as well as by Dr. James O’Connell and Dr. Hwang in my monograph (educational booklet) entitled Homeless Outreach & Housing First: Lessons Learned. More information on this project and my past book Homeless Narratives & Pretreatment Pathways can be found at http://www.jayslevy.com/
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Hampshire Gazette ~ Book Bag
By SUZANNE WILSON
Book Bag features works of area writers and books of regional interest. Most of these titles are available at local bookstores or through online retailers.
“Homeless Narratives & Pretreatment Pathways: From Words to Housing”
By Jay S. Levy
Loving Healing Press
In one of the narratives referenced in his title, social worker Jay Levy introduces readers to Ray, a homeless man he met years ago who was living on a crate in New York’s Port Authority.
Ray, a drinker, told Levy that he was the authority’s night watchman. Levy writes that his first encounter with Ray prompted him to start asking: How could he help those who are clearly in need, yet communicate no need for help? In Ray’s case, Levy writes, the answer, which took shape gradually over time, turned out to be building enough trust with Ray that Ray agreed to accept medical help for his swollen, ulcerated feet. While being treated at a veterans’ hospital, Ray said, for the first time, that he didn’t want to return to the Port Authority. That opening allowed Levy to offer the additional help that eventually placed Ray in a veterans’ home.
Levy, who has worked with the homeless in New York, Boston and in this area, writes that effectively helping them requires being able to understand their situations and realities – in effect, “to speak their language.” In another narrative, for instance, Levy tells the story of an outreach worker who met Tracy, a homeless man who showed up at a shelter mumbling about the lion’s den and the jungle and rejecting any overtures from the staff. Again over time, Levy says the worker was able to connect with Tracy, and help him, by building a dialogue based on linking the lion and jungle references to Tracy’s life on the streets. It is through those connections, he says, that bridges can be built between the world of the homeless person and the world of social services.
For more information about Levy’s work, go to www.JaySLevy.com
I just received a copy of the recent news article that ran in the Montague Reporter (YEAR 9 – NO. 9).
Here it is…
The Montague Reporter
Housing the Homeless in Western Mass
BY MARC ODATO
Western Massachusetts author and social worker Jay Levy has been pivotal in developing a new and effective method to help the homeless – a method that includes putting individuals into permanent housing before addressing other serious issues they might face.
“Year after year, there are people going into and out of shelters, and that approach does not work,” said Levy during a discussion at Boswell’s Books on Thursday night, November 18th.
A perennial issue during the cold holiday season, homelessness in Franklin County was recently highlighted during the town of Greenfield’s efforts to deal with tent residents in the so-called “Jungle” along its railroad tracks. Earlier this month, Mayor William Martin announced the Jungle had been cleared and all its residents successfully housed.
Western Massachusetts has, on a given night, about 500 people in shelters or out on the streets, and if one were to include transitional housing or other homeless programs, the number doubles. Levy said, “Over the course of the year, you can multiply that number by six.”
Levy said veterans comprise roughly 13 percent of the homeless population.
Roughly 90 percent of the chronically homeless also have serious substance abuse issues, mental health issues, medical problems or, usually, all those problems combined. Levy, who has been working with homeless populations for over 20 years, said, “We know the people who don’t get the help do actually die.”
Traditional homeless responses place individuals into an emergency shelter, later to have them work their way into transitional housing and later still into permanent housing. Levy said earlier models of helping the homeless are usually stymied either by programs demanding clients give up their ways of life or by clients’ resistance to change.
An innovation in response to this problem is Housing First, which puts homeless people immediately from the streets into their own apartments. Other issues, like substance abuse or mental health, are addressed only after permanent housing is secured. Levy explained, “It is not just housing. It is housing plus support services.”
Levy, who oversees a nine-person Housing First program, said 90 chronically homeless people in Western Massachusetts have been placed into housing over a 20-month period using the new approach. Although he sees his work as a moral concern, Levy said state funders have another reason to like Housing First. “It is quite a bit cheaper to house people with support services.”
Getting chronically homeless people into housing is itself a major step. “To the people who say ‘they are choosing to be out there,’ I say they are out there because they don’t see the choices as you see them,” Levy continued. “I might think of it as help; they might think of it as disruption. It has to resonate in their world”
“The central question of outreach is how do you help those who are clearly in need, but who communicate no need for help?” His answer is what Levy calls a pretreatment approach, which focuses first on developing a relationship and building a common language with homeless clients rather than foisting ready-made solutions on them. “The cardinal rule of pretreatment is you start where the people are at.”
Levy outlines his pretreatment method in his new book Homeless Narratives & Pretreatment Pathways: from Words to Housing. The book provides guidance to human service professionals on the intricacies of outreach and engagement, and housing stabilization strategies for the most vulnerable. Fifteen percent of the book’s profits will go to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Levy’s book is available at Boswell’s Books (Shelburne Falls), Food for Thought Books (Amherst), and Broadside Books (Northampton), or online via Amazon or Barnes & Noble, as well as through his web- site: www.jayslevy.com. ••
Recent Past Happenings:
- 3/6/2015 ~ Presentation on Pretreatment Guide for Homeless Outreach & Housing First at Springfield Technical Community College – (Event information) went well. We had over 130 participants consisting of students, professors, human service providers, and concerned community members.
- 11/28/2014 ~ The UK’s Home, Care, and Support Journal reviews Pretreatment Guide for Homeless Outreach & Housing First and discusses its merits in their opening editorial – Reviews & Blurbs features this review, among others.
- 12/13/2013 ~ Connecticut’s Talk Radio – Mary Jones Show (15 minute interview, yet very informative)
- 10/25/2013 ~ Presented at the 9th Annual International Street Medicine Symposium in Boston, Massachusetts, USA