Another meeting with caseworkers and social workers working with homeless clients. Another opportunity to bite my tongue.
(This is a continuation of an idea I developed in a more comprehensive article, "Barriers vs. Behaviors and the Homeless Population".)
The speaker was introducing a new program to help homeless clients train to be administrative assistants and bookkeepers, where they could make anywhere from $12 - $18 per hour. (My first question was why we were offering to train people to do menial jobs traditionally held by women which would only barely increase their wages instead of training them to be IT techs or computer programmers or something more lucrative. But that is another issue.)
The program will be hosted at the local community college. A case worker asked if the program would be helping people resolve outstanding fees and explained how these are obtained when students fail to complete courses paid for by student loans. The speaker acknowledged these unpaid fees were a "barrier" and responded saying there were plans to develop a program to provide "financial assistance" which would pay off unpaid tuition, loans and fees.
Ahem. Failing to complete courses paid for by student loans is not a barrier. It is a behavior. Paying off the student loans and the fees will NOT address what caused the person to be able to complete the classes in the first place. So the fees, if viewed as "barriers" will be paid off in an attempt to remove the "barrier". O.K. The barrier is removed. The client applies for another semester of college and is readmitted. What has changed? Whatever kept them from completing the classes before has not been addressed. In psychology we have a saying. "Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior." Of course people can change. But only if they work to do so. If the issue has not even been addressed the behavior will most likely continue.
This is the major problem I see with these programs which seek to remove "barriers". They view things as barriers which are actually behaviors. Racism is a barrier. Consistently failing to maintain employment or pay your bills is a behavior. If we truly want to address homelessness in America we need to address the behaviors which are causing it.
This topic is covered more thoroughly in previous articles: