Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Will Homelessness Only be Solved with Licensed Professionals?

   It's a march of money: Utah is trying to spend its way out of homelessness. It's throwing government funds at professional social workers, hoping they will change the homeless into productive members of society, into people who support themselves.
   It's an interesting way of going about solving the problem: Spend the money not on the homeless, directly, but on those who help the homeless. Our community leaders pitch the plan, saying treatment is the answer. Rather than just warehousing people, change them, they say. Give them skills.
   And, in come the professionals to work with the homeless.
   Sounds good, it does. But I have some questions.
   Are efforts to help the homeless doomed if we don't rely on professionals to help them? Will homelessness only go away if we bring in those with degrees and licenses? I notice how we are pushing aside the privately-operated shelters and volunteer programs, going instead toward government-operated treatment centers ran by paid professionals.
   Resource centers, I think we are calling them.
   Government answers always take money. They shouldn't have to, but it seems they always do. So, we are marching out money, and scratching for ways to find more.
   To me, it seems that if you are finding it difficult to fund your programs, you ought to look for ways that do not cost money. Instead of diminishing volunteer efforts, maximize them. Instead of suggesting volunteers cannot be the solution because they lack professional training, look for ways they might accomplish the same things you get when you use those with professional licenses.
   I am not convinced it takes a professional license to help someone. I'm not persuaded we cannot solve homelessness unless we hire those with college degrees to do it. There is something about people loving people, about neighbors helping neighbors. Those, too, are "programs" that work. Rather than stripping away our volunteers efforts, I wonder if we shouldn't make them the heart of our solution.

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