My Privilege Made Me Blind To This…
Thankfully I met Gary Davidge, the manager of SCT’s homeless drop-in center, and he has truly opened my eyes to what we should all be doing to help the homeless members of our community.
We began our conversation yesterday about the importance of changing our perspective of the homeless and stop turning a blind eye to the problem. Instead we need to begin the crucial step of opening up a dialogue with the homeless. Through conversation, we can actually figure out how to help people in the long run; in other words, how we can take a meal and turn that into an opportunity to make lasting change in the life of a homeless person.
Homelessness and Addiction
Gary noted something really interesting which was that many of the people who end up homeless faced incredible challenges growing up. Many people think helping the homeless means they are “putting lives back together.” However, Gary wants to reframe that thinking so people can see that they are “putting lives together” for the first time.
Many of the people Gary has dealt with have “never had a life that I would call a life.” Gary doesn’t want them to have what they had before – he wants them to have what he has: a healthy fulfilled life.
Gary has countless stories of people who grew up with parents who were addicts or abusive or spent time in and out of care. Facing so many challenges from such a young age is what leads many people to find themselves in bad situations.
When all someone knows is addiction, and abuse and struggle it makes it that much more difficult to find another path and break out of that cycle.
Gary notes that, of course, there are many addicts who are not homeless, but those addicts that grew up in safe, healthy homes; more than likely, still have some sort of familial support.
In fact, did you know that 4/5ths of drug addicts are white collar workers in the city with only 1/5th of addicts being members of the homeless community?
I came to this realization first hand when a man came up to me at the SCT and asked how I managed to stay out of jail while I was struggling with my addiction. At first I was confused and wondered, “why would I be in jail?” However, I soon realized my own privilege made me blind to this question. I had money and a support system that allowed me to beat my addiction.
Gary wants to remind people that drug addiction is not a homeless phenomenon, it’s a human phenomenon. There tends to be a double standard when it comes to drug and alcohol addiction. People will mourn the loss of a celebrity who overdosed, but won’t think twice about the two homeless people who die on the street every day.
“No life is worth more than another person’s life,” states Gary. Yet, many people tend to blame the homeless for the situation they are in. In fact, many homeless people Gary has worked with have found a way to get clean and find housing, but once it comes to getting a job, there are few employers who are willing to take a chance on them.
Hope at the End of the Tunnel
Homelessness can be an endless cycle. Gary sees it first hand how losing a job can lead to homelessness which can lead to alcohol abuse and then drug abuse and then prolonged homelessness because of these addicts.
One thing really can be all it takes for those without support to find themselves on the street.
Amidst all this, there is hope.
If we can continue the conversation and make the most of all the programs SCT has to offer from halfway houses to pre-abstinence programs, change can happen.
From Gary’s perspective the light at the end of the tunnel has everything to do with looking forward. In the next five years, he has goals to establish ten apartments to use as space to house the most needy members of the homeless community.
This idea is called Housing First and it’s something Gary is incredibly passionate about. He believes that once you give a homeless person a space of their own, along with care and support from the SCT, it becomes easier to engage with them. Giving someone stability is a huge factor in fighting addiction and ending homelessness.
Gary notes that, “everyone is different” and this means that the path to getting clean or sober will vary from one person to the next. Some people rely on AA and a 12 Step program while others rely on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or rehab or even a combination of all of these things along with other types of therapy.
There is no “one size fits all” and this is another reason why Housing First is so important to recovery because it’s another outlet to help provide a way to fight addiction. By providing that stability and giving members of the homeless community access to programs that make them feel like a part of the rest of society, the hope is that there is a better chance these men and women can become abstinent and get off the streets.
Gary concludes saying, “All doors need to be wedged open with crowbar in order to get people into recovery, to get people to have a life that we all want, even if we can’t admit it in the middle of our chaos.”
Getting the chance to volunteer at SCT and talk to Gary about how we can all help solve the homeless crisis has been such an incredible eye opening experience. If you want to learn more about Gary or getting involved, check out our full discussion here.
Today, start thinking of ways you can shift your mindset toward the homeless and become an active part of the solution.
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored