To Be Homeless Or Friendless


Jim lived under a bridge. Now in his 50s, he once served in the military. After reintegration, he bounced from job to job, drank too much, became estranged from his family, and ended up homeless.


A crisis outreach team found him one morning sleeping under the bridge. The team tried for months to get Jim to accept their support. Finally, he relented. The workers quickly helped him get disability benefits, meet with a psychiatrist and get settled in an apartment.


Two weeks later, safe in the apartment, Jim said he wanted to go live under the bridge again. He was more comfortable there, where he knew people and felt like he belonged.

In his apartment

Jim was cut off

from everything.

In that moment, when Jim said he wanted to leave what most would consider the safety of an apartment, the outreach team realized that while capable of physically ending a person’s homelessness, assisting that person in finding a true home is more complicated.


Helping the most marginalized people in society feel comfortable in a new and alien environment, where they are isolated from their peers, required a different approach that went beyond finding them a place to live. They needed to see themselves — and be seen as — full members of their community. They needed to be citizens.


Adapted from

The Power of Giving Homeless

People a Place to Belong

By Michael Rowe and

Charles Barber

Citylab

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