Jobs Not Welfare - What Most Homeless People Want?

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 26 Oct 1999 11:32:10 -0700 (PDT)


Do most homeless people you know want "opportunities to help themselves,
not better welfare programs and not more handouts"?

So replied most homeless indigents in treatment programs surveyed in
Anchorage, Alaska, USA in 1997, according to the article below

Hoemelss people helped with the count, but I wonder if they helped to
design the survey questions and who and where to count.

Does anything in the article give you clues as to "how accurate" the survey
might have been?

What are the "policy recommendations" for which the survey results might argue?

Who are the key "stakeholders" in this survey?

If the survey were an "ad", who would it be for?

***

FWD  Anchorage Daily News - Sept. 13, 1999

ANCHORAGE HOMELESS TOPPED 8,000 IN 1997, SURVEY REPORTS

By LARRY CAMPBELL
Daily News reporter

A group of local social service providers has come up with the most
comprehensive measure to date of homeless people in Anchorage, and its
startling results recently netted a national award.

The group's survey of fiscal year 1997 shows that between 8,000 and 10,000
people in Anchorage were homeless at some time during that year. That's
8,000 to 10,000 men, women and children who at some point during the year
had no place to call their own.

About 6,000 of them used a shelter sometime during 1997. Of those, about 40
percent were younger than 20.

Members of the group define the survey as informal. Still, the head count is
a revelation. Until now, estimates of Anchorage's homeless have been based
primarily on the number of spaces available and filled - the so-called bed
count - in the city's homeless centers, including Brother Francis Shelter,
The Mission, McKinnell House, Clare House and others. That method usually
produces numbers ranging from 600 to 1,000.

Another aspect of the group's effort also was surprising, at least to group
members. In a survey of homeless indigents in treatment programs during
1997, most said they wanted opportunities to help themselves, not better
welfare programs and not more handouts.

That response represents a quantum shift in attitudes of the out-of-luck
members of our community, according to Hilary Morgan, who headed the study
group and is a longtime veteran of social service efforts for the city's
homeless.

"I think it's a significant change from what we were hearing even five or 10
years ago," Morgan said. "They are not saying they want more freebie
dollars. They're saying now that they have to figure out how to keep jobs.
That's a real change."

The Northern Endeavor Team, as the group called itself, was made up of
representatives from 13 state, local and private social service agencies,
including the Municipality of Anchorage, Catholic Social Services, the
Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.
They came together in late 1997 under a Department of Housing and Urban
Development project, the Community TeamTraining Institute on Homelessness.

In recognition of the group's work, HUD last month named the Anchorage group
a John J. Gunther Blue Ribbon Best Practice winner. The award was named for
the former executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and innovator
of creative HUD programs.

The group was one of five projects in Alaska and 350 nationwide to win the
award this year. Winners were chosen from 3,400 nominees. Anchorage's
Homeward Bound, a residential program for homeless inebriates, also was
honored. Morgan directs that program too.

The annual award is bestowed on HUD-sponsored programs that the agency feels
have made significant differences in their communities, said Arlene
Patterson, HUD coordinator in Alaska.

"Their work was an extremely creative way of looking at this issue,"
Patterson said.

The count of homeless people in Anchorage was the first attempt by social
service agencies to get a comprehensive estimate of whom they are serving.
They conducted the survey by asking a wide array of agencies for their data
and asking how many individuals went through each agency's door, not just
how many times the door swung. That way, clients who went to agencies more
than once for services were counted only once. Second, the NET group
compared lists, trying to eliminate double-counting of clients between
agencies.

After all that, the survey still came up with a number that raised some
eyebrows, even among people who are in the business of serving the homeless.

"I admit, I was startled at first," said Jewel Jones, manager of the social
services division of the municipal Department of Health and Human Services.
Jones has worked with homeless issues for more than 25 years. "But when you
consider that they're counting everyone - from Clare House to Covenant
House - they do make sense."

For example, women who seek refuge at the Abused Women's Aid in Crisis
center "come because their homes are not safe," said AWAIC executive
director Jan MacClarence. "Which means they are homeless. They basically
don't have a home."

In the second phase of the group's work, it conducted face-to-face surveys
of 111 homeless people. And to conduct the survey, the group trained
formerly homeless people to work as canvassers.

"I think that aspect of using formerly homeless to do the survey itself is
unique in the nation," said HUD's Patterson.

Formerly homeless people spread out to their old haunts to talk to some of
their own and ask questions about why they were homeless and what it would
take to get them off the streets.

Their responses showed that, overall, people in destitute situations want to
get out but want to do so in a way that leads to self-reliance.

"I think that's a result of the recent legislation that led to reduction in
welfare, welfare-to-work programs," Morgan said.

>From here, the group plans to present its findings in a report, "The Word
from the Streets." The group also will hit the local lecture circuit and
present its findings to various government and social service groups in
coming months. To make the presentations, it is training more recently
homeless people to take the lead.

***

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