From our Senior Pastor
Dear friends, with the approval of your Elders, we are highlighting local mission opportunities in the 2020 calendar year. We support several excellent, faithful non-profits who passionately serve our neighbors with compassion, love and diligence. One such organization, Interfaith Community Services, has a leader making a difference in our community, city, and the larger San Diego region.
I have met with Greg Anglea in person, and in addition to being a smart leader, he is also a great resource for issues of homelessness, hunger and effective means of helping folks living through seasons of need.
Greg graciously agreed to write the following article based on one of our conversations. Keep reading, and know your generosity through our general fund goes to support the work of great groups like Interfaith.
Three Things You Should Know About Homelessness in San Diego
by Greg Anglea, Interfaith CEO
There are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes around homelessness. Here are three realities to cut through those misconceptions. They come up most often in conversations we have in the community, and also on the podcast we created to share the voices of people experiencing and overcoming homelessness, “Homeless In San Diego” (available on all podcast listening platforms). We hope you enjoy, learn, and are inspired to help!
1. Homelessness is Most Often NOT Caused by Mental Health and Addiction
We’ve recorded 40 episodes of our podcast featuring people who have overcome homelessness, and the number one reason people lose their housing is simple: they just didn’t have enough money to pay their rent, and they’ve faced repeated traumas. Whether it’s Marine mom Sarah who faced homelessness after when her husband stole family funds and abandoned her and their two children, young adult AnaLuara who spent more than half her life homeless and living out of a car with her mom as they struggled to pay the bills, or chronically homeless Shawn who faced debilitating childhood traumas, it is most often simply a lack of money and lot of trauma that lead to homelessness.
Are there higher rates of mental health and addiction among those on the streets? Yes. But the reality is while some become homeless due to mental health or addiction, far more turn to drugs and alcohol and see their mental health deteriorate after they become homeless. Not having a home and sleeping on the streets is very bad for your health. Since the early 2000’s the average rent in San Diego has increased nearly 50%, vastly outpacing meager increases in income among renters. A USC School of Public Policy 2019 research study found San Diego to be second most unaffordable rental market in the entire country.
More and more people live paycheck to paycheck. With rent at an all-time high in San Diego, far too many of our neighbors are one hardship or one trauma away from losing their housing.
2. Wait, It’s Not That Simple…(It’s Usually More Than Just One Thing)
There are lot of people living in poverty. 1 in 7 people in San Diego are uncertain where their next meal will come from. Most though, are not homeless. Homelessness usually happens after multiple hardships, often suffered in rapid succession. One of the first families we featured on the podcast, Duane and Danielle, share how terrified they were as they ultimately failed to maintain housing for their family of six after Duane suffered a debilitating illness that left him nearly paralyzed and unable to work. When Danielle also lost her job, they were left with a mountain of doctors appointments, job interviews that turned up empty, and the hustle and bustle of raising four young kids. They used their last bit of savings to purchase a Thousand Trails camping pass so they could access a handful of San Diego County campsites while they kept their kids in school.
Homelessness is usually the result of multiple traumas and hardships. People without the fortune of strong support systems are at the highest risk. People who have overcome tremendous challenges and inequities are many times more likely to become homeless, including both Veterans and people of color.
Yet people who have experienced trauma also have strength, and resilience. Recent studies among Interfaith’s homeless morning meal clients revealed that 95% have experienced at least one aspect of what is called “Post Traumatic Growth”, meaning they identify areas of growth and strength as a result of the traumas they have experienced.
Duane and Danielle are strong. Interfaith Community Services provided short-term rental assistance and help finding a landlord who would rent to them. Duane and Danielle have done the rest. Duane’s health is improving, Danielle and the kids are doing well, and they are making their new home work. Their situation could have been much worse had they remained homeless. Just one month after they moved into their new home Danielle gave birth to their baby son, Micah. Thank God they welcomed Micah into their home, and not a tent.
3. You Can Help!
Homelessness may seem unsolvable. More than 24,000 people experienced homelessness and tried to get help through a homeless-program just last year in San Diego County. As a society we have a very, very long way to go before we can eliminate homelessness.
But on a personal level, we can help today – right now! Duane and Danielle had very few belongings, but through the help of people like you Interfaith was able to provide beds for their kids, kitchenware for family meals, and household items to make their new apartment a home. Simple in-kind donations make a big difference for newly housed people.
On our podcast the number one call to action request those who have overcome homelessness is to simply be nice, show respect, and treat people who you think may be homeless (you don’t know for sure unless you talk with them!) with dignity and grace. We have too many horror stories of people getting yelled at, attacked, and villainized. Counter that by making eye contact, smiling, and asking people how they are doing. Show them concern and support just as you would a friend or family member.
Finally – you can get involved as a volunteer or donor. The life-changing interventions shared in each of the stories described her were funded by charitable gifts to Interfaith Community Services. Trained volunteers are needed to serve as social workers, move-in assistants, and employment coaches. Groups of volunteers are needed to prepare and serve meals to residents of our Haven House homeless shelter.
Interfaith Community Services just successfully completed an 18-month campaign to end and prevent homelessness for 2,019 people by the end of 2019. Support from people like you made that possible.
Whatever you do, be a part of helping others. Be a part of listening to and engaging others. You can make a difference!