What makes chronic homelessness such a complex problem to unravel and to solve? In social worker and policy practice.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Chronic homelessness is defined as the case of an individual who has been homeless for more than a year, or who has had four or more episodes of being homeless. Concomitant with the condition of being without a home, there is also the existence of a disability.

Certainly, the duality of the problem with the chronically homeless presents great challenges for the social worker. One of the challenges is, of course, in the identification of the disability or disabilities that the homeless person possesses. Another challenge is the coordination of agencies that is necessary in dealing with such homeless individuals. For instance, the social worker must collaborate with psychiatrists or drug rehabilitation agencies; or, if the chronically homeless person is a veteran, then the social worker must co-ordinate with the VA administration. Needless to add, any time bureaucracies are involved, there is always delay and other issues such as variance in policies from one to the other.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, key considerations involve

  • Methods for targeting behavioral health populations;
  • Criteria defining the provider types that can be designated a health home;
  • Payment strategies to support the intensity of services needed to stabilize people in housing; and
  • Enrollment practices that recognize the needs of vulnerable homeless people.

Truly, then, any time that people with varying conditions are involved, there is always a challenge presented in the identification of behavioral and health problems, identification of needs, and the sustaining of the individual in a program or programs designed to help him/her. Added to this, there is the almost insurmountable challenge of contemporary times in which there are so many procedures that must be followed in order to properly execute any positive action.

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