Courtesy of The Huff Post
It’s interesting what you can learn just by asking a few questions. I have visited LA Family Housing several times over the last four years. Mostly, I was transporting new residents. On a few occasions I even went inside to help a family move their stuff. But I didn’t know how amazing LA Family Housing was until I spent a few hours there interviewing homeless families.
What I learned was LA Family Housing has twenty two apartment buildings in the Los Angeles area where they house homeless families and chronic homeless individuals. That’s huge. As many of you know I support the “Housing First” model, but so often chronic homeless individuals are placed into an apartment without adequate support. I have also come to believe that we are doing a disservice to our chronic homeless friends, and the general public, when we place people who have been on the streets for a long time in normal apartment buildings. The model that I have seen that works the best is when chronic homeless people are housed in dedicated housing that has 24/7 support services available, which is what LA Family does.
I also learned that LA Family Housing uses a program based model where during the day they provide support and life skills services and don’t kick people out. If you are not aware, the normal shelter model is to make people leave during the day. Many homeless services claim that this forces people to go better their lives. But the truth is the majority of people experiencing homelessness don’t have the self-esteem to better their lives, have been so beat down it all seems impossible, or they simply don’t know how or where to start. When kicked out during the day a large percentage of homeless people do nothing! I think it’s a much better program to have counselors (volunteers if you cannot hire) to work with and motivate homeless people during the day instead of kicking them out. I love LA Family Housing for making it a priority to help homeless families learn life skills so when they are placed in housing they stay in that housing!
I really love this interview with Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, president and CEO of LA Family Housing! I especially love how LA Family Housing is redefining success knowing success is a long journey and different for every person or family. In the homeless services culture success was defined by homeless to housing. Stephanie described this paradigm change using the example of a family living in their car saying that success may be getting the kids into school, or maybe going back to church. Of course, permanent housing is still the end goal but by redefining success increases stability in that housing!
LA Family Housing has a low barrier to entry. That means they say “yes” to everyone. Today, homeless services is becoming very specialized because funding is becoming specialized. For example, right now there is lots of funding for veterans (as there should be) so there is lots of support for homeless veterans, but because nonprofits go where the money is, there is less support for other homeless people who are not veterans. In other situations shelters are not able to take large families, or families with adult children. It’s literally insane what a homeless family has to jump through just to find the services they need. I find it so refreshing that LA Family Housing will take in families others won’t!
Personally, I consider Stephanie Klasky-Gamer an expert on family homelessness. In this interview Stephanie states that the first time we have an increase in chronic family homelessness (length of time homeless) we also have an increase in first time homeless families.
I have seen firsthand how family homelessness is often generational. While talking to staff at LA Family Housing I was a little saddened that there has been a program change making families move faster through transitional housing. That gives families less time to save and less time to develop life skills needed to sustain permanent housing.