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Oh Kellen, I am so disappointed to hear this. I participated in that exact program. I feel I may have heard you speak as I imagine you work at the the organization that was home base to this program. Having worked with homeless youth through this program I can safely say that college is indeed the farthest thing from what these kids need.

Our goal was to help young adults and teens attain housing and employment, which was tricky enough in and of itself. The obstacles are so huge, and once a young adult has self identified with the homeless population, they learn survival techniques from those who are more reliable. Those like themselves who are able to care in a way that's sadly more reliable than the programs that seek to provide the reliability these kids need.

Unfortunately the reality that a social worker will disappear from their lives is not missed by young adults who have been left too many times by well meaning adults. Understandably they realize that a group of street youth will stand by them, despite infighting and squabbles there is a loyalty and a genuine compassion that a social worker can't provide.

It's something that moved me to feel that if I really ever wanted to help young homeless adults I would adopt/foster a teen who is about to age out. These kids need family that are PERMANENT. And it's simply impossible to do that as a social worker.

Of course if I ever were to do that it wouldn't be for like 15 more years, if ever. As an adoptee, I think these feelings were particularly strong for me, as I know that I was "saved". That was a very hard year for me. I was too close in age, and I also had grown up with a similar crowd to that which I was serving, furthering the obstacles of achieving the distance necessary to create the social work boundaries required for the job. While I did keep up the boundaries needed, I felt empty and like I was not allowed to provide any of the support that the kids needed.

I felt like my presence was a waste. I was there, almost there. Almost able to be there. But instead just watching, unable to share compassion.

It left me confused about my relationships since then. I became very aloof, the same way I trained myself to be in that job. Completely aloof and uninvolved.

While that isn't the goal of a helper profession, I think it happens very often. And sometimes it actually becomes a goal. In which case something is lost for the client.

I do think that very special people are able to navigate the fine line between having some level of empathy and maintaining a professional boundary, most often people lean toward one side or the other. And again, sadly the ones with the most strict boundaries are able to remain in the field longer, and sometimes wind up doing less.

In any case, my goal of working in social work got temporarily scrapped after that experience....

Kuddos to you for sticking with it! And I certainly hope that yourself and others will protest this ridiculous proposal. I would imagine the person who ran the americorps program for many years would want to protest this mess!!! (I'm sure you knew him!)

Although I guess there is nothing to protest since americorps can decide to do whatever it wants. Something in this screams "pleasing funders" rather than actually helping clients. That's a find line that gets fudged up very often too.

Funders often have no clue what it means to actually help, and while well meaning, they want to see their money go to things (like this) that often make no sense and ultimately will just wind up in wasted money anyway.

Sigh.

I totally agree with the sigh.


Hi Rox,

I can totally relate to what you are saying about the funders. I think the funders are often swayed by what they see in the media and by statistics from programs that may or may not be entirely accurate. While I loathe to see a pat answer of affordable housing as the end all and be all to cure homelessness (I think serious long term therapy is required and heavy case management is required) I dont think doing away with affordable housing will help either. The current levels of affordable housing need to be maintained (but not increased) and additional funding put into therapists who can establish a somewhat permanent and stable influence in a young clients life.

Thank you for your feedback.

Kellen

I agree that "educational attainment" is not the only answer to teen homelessness or any other kind of homelessness. I do agree that the more educated someone is, their chances of homelessness do decrease barring any personal issues that caused the homelessness. But it is truly a case of getting the cart before the horse; what makes them think that a homeless teen (or any other homeless person)will be able to keep their focus on education when their environment is totally chaotic? Being educated folks ourselves, we know that if our life had been as unstable as a homeless person's generally is, we could not have obtained that educational level, whether you're talking high school or anything else.

Case management for housing, therapy to work on the personal issues and education all complement the work that needs to be done to prevent future homelessness. You can't have one without the other.

Incidentally, social problems do cause homelessness but are not the sole cause of homelessness: it's the person's reaction to the social problems that cause the homelessness. Again, another case for the need to include therapy and perhaps lifeskills classes in any homeless person's housing plan.


Hi Dave,

I think you summed it up completely when you said, cart before the horse. I also appreciate your observance that people do react differently to the same social issues and this has to be taken into account.

Thank you for your valid and insightful feedback.

Kellen

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