How Will We Ever End (Slow) Homelessness?

Andy's Blog

A few years ago URM came up with a 10 step plan to end homelessness that we really believed in. Our goal was to get all people off the streets of Skid Row by 2016. You can view the well thought out plan at You Are The Mission.

Our Federal government, local Chamber of Commerce, United Way, and others also came up with a plan called Home For Good LA—they believed this would end chronic and veteran’s homelessness in Los Angeles by 2016.

Despite the well intended plans of many, homelessness has increased by 16% in the Los Angeles area in the last two years. Though veterans’ homelessness has decreased with the increased attention, single male and female homelessness has increased in spite of the increased Home for Good focus on these two groups of individuals experiencing homelessness.

Prior to 2012, there were several years where the number of people residing on Skid Row in Los Angeles was decreasing. This year, the numbers of people on the streets have jumped dramatically. In fact, I have never seen so many people on the streets of Skid Row in my nearly 14 years of volunteering or working here. It is frustrating to admit that whatever we are all doing; including the Federal Government, local government, local Chamber, United Way, Home For Good LA, and others — we are not ending homelessness.

The theory of focusing on the “anchor” people (who have been chronically homeless for years) and getting them off of the streets, so that homelessness would end, is simply not valid.

By shifting most of the resources on the few (10% to 20% of those experiencing homelessness – the Chronic and Veterans), most of the resources have shifted away from the other 80% to 90% experiencing homelessness; families, children, those on the edge and falling in and out of homelessness—and left them out in the cold.

Studies of adults experiencing chronic homelessness suggest that they were once chronically impoverished or homeless children, which may very well mean today’s chronically impoverished & homeless children will be tomorrow’s chronically homeless adults. This leads me to predict that efforts put forth by all of those focused only on the few right now will actually lead to increased homelessness — not only in the now and near future, but in the long run. In fact, I would declare right now we have an epidemic of homelessness that will only increase.

One of my respected and trusted peers, Larry Adamson, CEO and President of The Midnight Mission, says our Federal Government’s plan calls for people receiving housing and depending on the government in perpetuity. Neither Larry nor I believe this is a sustainable plan now or in the future as homelessness continues to increase.

Another knowledgeable trusted colleague has a more cynical view toward our Federal Government’s plan. He and others believe the plan is to make people experiencing homelessness obscure and out of sight, stuck away in very small quarters without the services they so desperately need to turn their lives around. Union Rescue Mission believes in ending homelessness, one life at a time, through Life Transformation. We believe our role in this challenge of homelessness is life transformation, followed by a job, followed by a home.

I’m not here to put the blame on anyone in particular. The truth is no one can keep up with the increasing numbers of people experiencing homelessness our American Culture is producing.

One of the most common denominators for homelessness is isolation. Too often we hear “I have no ties to family” as the first of many issues that led to a guest becoming homeless. Families were disintegrated or bridges were burned, young people have ended up in foster care and then left foster care only to end up homeless or in prison and on their own. The reality is that broken relationships result in broken lives. Broken people lose touch with their humanity, their dignity, and their value as a person created by God. They are truly lost.

Many of the people who come to us are lost and don’t know it. Some are lost and have ceased to care. At Union Rescue Mission we believe our job is to reach out to them one life at a time with the most potent alternative, a relationship with Christ. It is our job to present the Gospel in words, actions, and commitment. Then and only then can the cycle of isolation, lack of family, lack of community that can lead to addiction, mental illness and yes, even homelessness be broken.

Until we address our families and culture of isolation, and develop a heart that will not allow even one person to be on their own living on the streets, we will not end homelessness.




Rev. Andy Bales

Written with assistance from URM teammates: Chaplain Steve Borja, Jacqui Groseth, and  Kitty Davis-Walker.

4 thoughts on “How Will We Ever End (Slow) Homelessness?

  1. Stephanie on

    “One of my respected and trusted peers, Larry Adamson, CEO and President of The Midnight Mission, says our Federal Government’s plan calls for people receiving housing and depending on the government in perpetuity. Neither Larry nor I believe this is a sustainable plan now or in the future as homelessness continues to increase.”

    I have to concur. What is driving the increase in homelessness to include families, single adults and women is that the economy no matter how much they want to say it is improving is not improving at all. When you look at the statistics, the jobs that are being created are predominately low wage paying jobs. That is not enough for people to be independent and more than likely not even able to afford to live in a roommate situation unless you have a bunch of people crammed into a small place. Jobs such as working at McDonalds and the like were always jobs people would have when they were teenagers and in college. Now you have a lot of highly educated and experienced people that due to lack of middle class jobs are working at places like McDonalds. I believe as well that the largest group of unemployed are recent college graduates who are ending up moving back in with mom and dad due to employment opportunities that are going to allow them to be independent, establish their own households and eventually in most cases give rise to their own families. Dependent people are easily controlled and manipulated and it seems regretfully that your friend is correct; our government just wants a bunch of dependent people just for that reason.

  2. Brandy Hinrichs on

    I am only aware of the amazing work you do through my own homeless family member who you served recently. This is what I observed: a comprehensive program with dedicated people designed to repair “broken” people. I walked into your shelter and I felt the sacredness of what is happening in there. Truly felt it. My family member made the choice to leave your shelter and return to the streets after graduating from the program. Soooo much frustration!!! Mental illness is a huge factor, driving drug and alcohol use, impulsive behavior, an instable self image, etc….I think MORE counseling, esp. CBT would be helpful. Also, family counseling. The requirement to re-connect with family doesn’t really do enough if the bridges were destroyed, the family needs help to be able to help incorporate the loved one back in to their lives after so much pain/disappointment, etc…I think my experience was a perfect example of URM’s attempt to help a man who returned to the streets. Could be seen as a failure. But I think the success was that this man had a safe place to rest for over a year, a place to find sobriety, be cared for. I hope he gets back to you somehow!

  3. Thank you, dear friends, for weighing in with your wisdom. Blessings

  4. William Yakel on

    Hello Andy:

    I watched all of your videos and noticed that you are one of the most “SWEETEST and GENUINE” HUMAN BEINGS that I have ever had the pleasure of watching on video. You may not remember me but I am the gentleman from South Florida who befriended you before you had your HEART ATTACK if I am correct or it could have been right after. In your conversation with me you revealed to me something very personal and at the time it actually sounded like you were weeping which is ok in my opinion and you told me in confidence that at that point in time you were right on the verge of almost giving up because you were getting frustrated and you didn’t think that what you were doing was making a difference but if you remember from our conversation I told you not to give up and you simply told me these 6 very important words which were: (I sure needed to hear that). I never thought that my conversation with you would help prop you up but I then remembered that we are all Devices-Conduits-Instruments from Lord God Almighty. YOU ARE “UNION RESCUE MISSION” and you are also the (AMBASSADOR OF GOODWILL) and many people would have nothing if it wasn’t because of you and your hard work and determination. GOD I believe placed you where you are at and I am glad that you are obedient towards him as he is your father which art in heaven. God also placed many incredible people and miracles in your path. You have always found a SILVER LINING in the clouds. Many people depend on you and you are doing a wonderful job too. People love you and always look forward to seeing you every single day and GOD LOVES YOU TOO MY FRIEND AND BROTHER IN CHRIST. He always supplies my needs without fail. ANDY you I believe are able to work and perform at the pace that you do only because of GOD. You are a very “SPECIAL” person. I applaud you for being the very best that you possibly can ever be.I simply can’t find anything negative whatsoever to say about you or to you. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND WILL NEVER STOP. God told me to send you this EMAIL MESSAGE to you. ANDY I just wanted to basically tell you that so many people would have surely perished or even worse they probably may have never found CHRIST either had it not been for your generosity and benevolence and cheerful giving spirit. Now because of you people have been able to accept Jesus as their personal savior. You really have led by example especially with your daily examples of REAPING and SOWING which you have always been a part of. You have always planted the seeds of CHRIST in the proper fertile soil and with JESUS CHRIST ALMIGHTY a lot of men and women were delivered and have escaped the clutches of SATAN and they will no longer have to worry about going to that bottomless pit where the cries are never ending there is always the sound of tearing of flesh and where the pain is eternal and void of CHRIST ALMIGHTY. Putting GOD into the equation guarantees that we will only die once which is physical because spiritually we will indeed live forever and ever. ANDY: Happy Holidays and Happy Thanksgiving too!!!

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