So often, we believe the only solution to homelessness is housing.
While stable housing is a crucial part of new beginnings for the vulnerably-housed, social connection and friendship are important, too.
Since 2011, Catholic Social Services’ Welcome Home program has been matching newly-housed participants with two volunteers to create healthy relationships. It aims to build self-confidence, develop meaningful connections, and reduce feelings of isolation.
The program is entirely funded by Sign of Hope.
“We’re normal people with aspirations, hopes and dreams, just like everyone else, but we’ve managed to screw it up for ourselves,” says Frank, who’s been a Welcome Home participant for six years. “A lot of us are trying to get back to normalcy. I’m more or less there now. Every step forward helps.”
Frank meets with his current partners every couple of weeks. They usually meet for coffee, but sometimes change things up. Recently, they visited a museum together.
“I’m a recovering addict, so these visits put me back in touch with society, and keep me away from sliding back into bad habits. And I think it’s good for them, too. They’re learning about so-called disadvantaged people, that we’re not the scary people society thinks we are.”
Frank has lived in his own apartment with subsidized rent for about eight years. After a decade of sporadic homelessness, it’s an appreciated change.
“I have my privacy when I need it. I can cook when and what I want, I don’t have to share a bathroom,” he says. “It’s a lot easier to stay sober with my own place.”
Frank recently appeared as a presenter in a university social justice class, and was pleased with the reaction from students. He appreciates the opportunity to educate others on the root cases and social issues that contribute to homelessness and how we can work together to address it.
“More people should be aware that the problems are bigger and farther ranging than addiction and homelessness. Everyone is vulnerable. This can happen to anyone at anytime. We’re all interconnected.”