LETTER: Homeless Numbers Are Down, But Reality Is Harsh 

Your article on the homeless fails to describe the realities of the current situation. On July 29 my wife and I accompanied members of a family to the Homeless Point of Entry, the sole agency by which homeless people can gain access to any of the shelters or transitional housing in the city. They were told they were No. 57 on the waiting list, and it would be four to six weeks before anything would become available and there was no room in the emergency shelter.

They are required to phone in every single day or lose their place in the line. At its face this seems reasonable except that these families have to buy minutes on cell phones, a significant expense when you are homeless. Checking in personally would require a long walk or a significant bus fare as the whole family would have to go. They get no information when they call so it seems as if checking in every day is just a bureaucratic hoop they have to jump through.

Our church has been accommodating them in one room in a motel since then and the church social worker tells me that she has several other families in the same situation. They have little or no way to prepare food and a grocery store is more than a mile away, and so eating is an ongoing challenge

The family is now No. 15 on the list and currently moves up about one each workday. We do not know whether what will be offered once they reach the head of the line is space in the emergency shelter or transitional housing.

So while the numbers may show a significant improvement in the number of homeless, they face huge hurdles in their efforts to change their situation. Homeward's executive director asks, "What else can we do?" Here are two suggestions:

The new catchphrase being used for the system is: "rapid re-housing." For our family it seems as if it is anything but rapid, so my first suggestion is to make the word rapid a reality. Secondly, provide real information as to what might be offered and what the alternatives are and when they might become a reality. Right now there is absolutely no transparency to those seeking help or to those of us trying to support and advise them.

Adrian Luxmoore
Richmond

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