Homelessness is a complex issue and one that can have many different causes. Unfortunately, people living with chronic disabling conditions often face barriers that make them less financially stable and more likely to become homeless.
We talked to Catherine, a Case Manager on the WISH Housing team, about why this happens.
Q: Are people with a chronic disabling condition more likely to become homeless? Why?
Catherine: Absolutely. Many disabling conditions have stigma and discrimination attached to them. Some make steady employment with livable wages next to impossible to obtain or maintain.
While there are assistance programs available, the initial process can be confusing or overwhelming. Those with a disabling condition may also have fewer social supports or deficiencies in various skills needed to maintain housing. Poor health, whether physical or mental health, also plays a large role in one’s ability to maintain housing. As a vulnerable population, this group is at higher risk to be manipulated, exploited, and taken advantage of.
Q: How does having a chronic disabling condition make it harder to overcome homelessness?
Catherine: Although there are many reasons I believe it is harder to overcome homelessness when one has a chronic disabling condition, a primary reason is because there are deep rooted, systemic issues at play.
Many of our social safety net programs are not only shrinking but they have been underfunded for years. When those who are homeless and disabled attempt to utilize assistance programs, they may face difficulty maneuvering the process or extremely long wait times to obtain benefits.
Sometimes, conditions present in socially unacceptable ways. Rather than being proactive, we as a society tend to be reactive, causing unnecessary criminal records; therefore, creating another barrier to housing for those already marginalized. Other disabilities are “silent”, meaning they are not visible to others, which can make asking or even at times receiving help difficult as well.
Eventually, individuals lose hope that there is help or that things can get better. Once we lose hope, our paths become darker and we stop believing that we can overcome seemingly impossible barriers.
Q: How does Guild’s WISH program help people experiencing homelessness who have a chronic disabling condition find stability?
Catherine: The WISH team provides services that are housing-oriented, multi-disciplinary, and voluntary. The program allows for integrated housing, allowing our clients to live independently in housing of their choice, and is a low barrier entry program. When people are given dignity, choice, and ownership of their lives, outcomes tend to be more stable and positive.
Why is the WISH program important?
Catherine: WISH is important because it embraces supportive housing and is a low-barrier program. The team takes a holistic approach to working with clients and consists of dedicated professionals with skills that complement each other. The clients participating in WISH are involved in their journey to finding stability- they participate in their goal plans, preferences in providers, housing choice, and services received.
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Homelessness in America, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.