Tender Touch Ministries Founder Anthony Miller answers common questions surrounding homelessness.
What are the most common reasons a person becomes homeless?
Here are 5 of the most common reasons people become homeless.
- Lack of affordable housing
- Substance Abuse
- Domestic Violence
- Mental Health
Some people think homelessness is defined as someone who is confined to living and sleeping on the streets, but are there other types of homelessness?
Homelessness can essentially be broken down into four categories: Chronic, Episodic, Transition, and Hidden.
Chronic – The Federal definition of a chronically homeless individual describes them as either an “unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, or has had a minimum of four episodes of homelessness in the previous 3 years. Base on the most recent data, on any given night there are roughly 86,962 chronically homeless individuals in the U.S., representing 24% of the homeless population. Typically, these individuals live on the street, in their car, park, or other locations that are not suitable for human habitation.”
Episodic – Episodic homelessness refers to individuals who are currently homeless and have experienced at least three periods of homelessness in the previous year. These individuals are often younger suffer from some type of disabling condition, such as substance abuse, mental illness, and/or medical problems.
Transition – Transition homelessness is actually the most common type of homelessness. These individuals are most likely younger and generally enter a shelter or temporary housing system for only a brief stay. This situation could be the result of a catastrophic event or sudden life changes.
Hidden – Hidden homelessness specifically refers to individuals temporarily living with others or (couch-surfing) without a guarantee that they will be able to stay long-term and without immediate prospects for acquiring permanent housing. This population is considered ‘hidden’ because they do not access homeless support services, despite their need for them. For this reason, they do not appear in Standard Homeless Statistics.
When someone encounters a homeless person on the street who is asking for money, how do you recommend they respond?
Great question. There are 3 important factors in addressing this ambiguous subject matter. They are Wisdom, Empathy, and Discernment.
Wisdom – It’s wise to conclude that you will definitely encounter homeless individuals at some point in your life, and a large percentage will ask for money. However, there are multiple ways of helping a homeless person other than giving them money. Consider buying them a hot meal with water or a soft drink. Or perhaps giving them a gift card of some sort to purchase hygiene products and other essentials. Maybe even providing a blanket or warm clothing for when it becomes cold outside. The method in which we give is completely up to us. But just remember, no matter how we rendering assistance to the homeless, do it with respect and humility. That speaks volumes to how our generosity is received.
Empathy – One of the best ways to help someone experiencing homelessness is to show them respect and genuine compassion. Just a simple good morning or hello goes a long way. And if you should enter into a conversation, look into their eyes and talk to them with sincere interest and acknowledge their value as an individual, you affirm that they matter.
Discernment – This category can be a bit tricky because, we need to differentiate truth from fiction. When assisting the homeless, what is our why? Is it because it makes us feel good or are we motivated by others being good Samaritans?
Why does government struggle to end, let alone, reduce homelessness?
In California, there are many Federal Funding Housing Programs available that renders assistance to the homeless. However, according to a report released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), California saw a 6.8% increase in homelessness between 2019 and 2020 and a 16.2% increase between 2007-2020. The increase from 2019-2020 is the largest increase in a state during that time frame. California’s most vexing issue is also its most shameful: the large and rising number of residents who lack a safe place to call home. In a state with vast amounts of wealth, more than 150,000 of its residents sleep in shelters, cars, or on the streets. So, our homelessness epidemic is no longer just a government needs to do more issue, but also, a “All Hands On Deck issue.” We as a people need to fuse our efforts together on a larger scope to help those who are in dire need.
Has homelessness increased the last many years? It seems so. If so, why?
This question dovetails perfectly to the previously asked question. And the answer is a resounding “yes.” California’s struggle with rising homelessness is nothing new. The State’s homeless population increased in five of the past six years. The sharpest increase took place over the past two years. There are two trends largely responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past 20 to 25 years: a shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty.
You are a veteran and were homeless yourself. What are the common reasons vets end up on the street?
Here are 5 common reasons veterans become homeless:
Severe mental illness (PTSD)
Lack of network support
Besides Tender Touch Ministries, you have a long career in business. That said, some business owners, while sympathetic to the struggles of homeless people, also need to navigate issues of homeless people either in their establishment which can make customers feel uncomfortable and/or unsafe. What advice to you have for business owners and their management in these difficult situations?
Although challenging, it is extremely crucial to render respect and humility to the homeless. Primarily because, they are human beings, no matter where they’re at in life. We don’t know their story, or how they became homeless. The pain and trepidation that they carry, daily, is demoralizing enough. Unless we have experienced homelessness, on some level, it is virtually impossible to speak to the homeless with great empathy and compassion. Nevertheless, we must make a conscientious effort to do so. Because, homelessness can happen to anyone, at any given time, without warning.
How important is a smart phone for a homeless person?
One may think that a smart phone would be ideal for a homeless person, absolutely not. Although it’s important for a homeless person to have a device for communication purposes, it’s more practical for them to have a device that’s relatively inexpensive. Why? Because homeless people meander from place to place at a moment’s notice, and more often than not, the device is either lost or stolen.
What type of people are most at risk of becoming homeless?
In particular, the elderly, disabled and veteran populations can often be more at risk of homelessness because of unique situations that can effect these groups.
Can you share some of the most touching experiences you’ve had helping the homeless?
Absolutely. Not too long ago, Tender Touch Ministries received a telephone call from a young lady who was completely distraught due to her homeless situation. Unfortunately, she, along with her husband and eight year old daughter, had been living on the streets for sometime due to the loss of their business and other debilitating factors. They needed help in the worst way. Fortunately, Tender Touch Ministries was able to provide them with temporary shelter, food, water, clothing, hygiene products, toys for the precious little girl and prayer. This made all the difference in the world to this family.
Another experience that comes to mind is when one day, I was walking down the street and this lady approached me and said, I’m hungry. So I said, well, may I buy you something to eat, and she began to cry. After she composed herself, we walked to a restaurant that was close by. We ate and had a very enjoyable conversation. This lady had been living in her car for four months because she lost her job and could no longer afford to pay her rent for one bedroom apartment. Fortunately, Tender Touch Ministries was able to provide her with temporary housing and through Tender Touch Ministries partners base, she was able to secure an apartment where she still resides today. This lady was so grateful, that she became a Tender Touch Ministries volunteer.
What are some of the biggest challenges homeless outreach organizations like yours face.
The biggest challenge is lack of resources. Tender Touch Ministries receives a plethora of telephone calls daily, on its 24-hour hotline from families and individuals reaching out for assistance. Why? Because they’re in desperate need of temporary shelter, food, water, hygiene products, clothing and blankets for when it’s cold outside. Simply put, without continued financial support, it would be extremely difficult to render immutable assistance to those who are in dire need.
To donate to Tender Touch Ministries and help fight homelessness, please go here.