The city of Dallas has long struggled with stemming the growth of homelessness, panhandling, and vagrancy. According to a poll conducted by The Dallas Express, the rise in homelessness and vagrancy specifically is one of the leading reasons why the city is shrinking according to residents. Programs such as Haven for Hope might provide more effective solutions that help those in need by addressing the underlying issues driving the problem.
There are many shelters for homeless people and vagrants, but not many provide “all-in-one service” as Haven for Hope does.
Located in San Antonio on 22 acres of land, Haven for Hope offers a second chance for individuals and families.
In 2006 founder and philanthropist Bill Greehey developed the “one-stop” design after researching and surveying over 200 homeless and vagrant shelters across the country in 18 months.
Greehey recognized that most shelters and services were not ideal due to their location and lacked an administrative connection to each other.
With a lack of transportation among the homeless and vagrant population, shelters across San Antonio were not geographically ideal for many, and services were too scattered.
So, Haven for Hope became more than just an idea. In June of 2010, it became a reality, a “one-stop shop” for people experiencing homelessness or vagrancy.
“If somebody who is experiencing homelessness comes to Haven for Hope, they can get help with mental health issues, substance use issues, and job training, and they can get help passing their GED,” Terri Behling, Director of Communications for Haven for Hope, told The Dallas Express.
“They can get help accessing benefits that they are owed from Social Security or from veteran services; they could get help recovering their ID,” explained Behling. “We provide all of that in one location through the collaboration of our partners. … That’s sort of how Haven for Hope got started.”
To receive help trying to get off the streets, people found that most services provided by shelters or agencies required having some sort of identification. However, what an average person may think is normal are often barriers that limit services for people experiencing homelessness or vagrancy.
“It is because either their IDs have been stolen, misplaced, or expired,” said Behling.
“If you can think about it in terms of what we need our IDs for, we need our IDs to rent an apartment; we need our IDs to access any kind of benefits; we need our IDs to get a job. So that is probably one of the biggest services that we and our partners offer our clients, is that ID recovery,” Behling continued.
“Because if they don’t have the proper paperwork and identification, they’re not going to be able to go get into an apartment even with public assistance.”
There are all sorts of barriers that prevent people who are homeless or vagrants from receiving many services. Haven for Hope offers all of these services in one centralized location.
Moreover, homelessness and vagrancy do not just affect individuals; it also affects families. In the U.S., family homelessness is on the rise, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In a report released in November 2014 by the National Center on Family Homelessness at American Institutes for Research, “Family homelessness is exploding because the demographics of the family have changed,” said Dr. Ellen Bassuk, primary author of a report on child homelessness.
“There’s a rise in female-headed households and poverty, an expansion of the low-wage economy, lack of affordable housing, increased levels of violence against women, and cuts in human service programs,” said Bassuk in the report.
Haven for Hope takes in families and provides an environment designed to help not only individuals get back on their feet but families as well.
“We never turn a family away,” said Behling.
“This summer, we saw an increase in the number of families seeking services, so we will always find room for them even if it means clearing a conference room or a cafeteria and using it for sleeping at night,” Behling said. “Everyone sleeps indoors.”
When asked what cities like Dallas can do to address the homeless and vagrant population’s needs and care, Behling suggested “bringing together community organizations that serve those experiencing homelessness and getting the “buy-in” from your community.”
People need “to be willing to embrace mixed-income, low-income housing,” too, she said. Behling suggested that it is a matter of “really helping address the stigma of who is experiencing homelessness and why.”