The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Coercion or Cooperation? January 10, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Coercion or Cooperation?

Pine Street Inn in Boston, Massachusetts, New England’s largest resource for homeless men and women, sends Outreach vans onto the city’s streets 365 nights per year — in the cold, snow and rain — offering homeless men and women help in the form of warm blankets, hot meals, clean clothes and transportation to shelter.  The journal below allows us to follow a van on one night’s journey and details some of the experiences of the shelter’s outreach volunteers.

Imagine just for a moment that you are one of the homeless women or men described in the article.  As you read, ask yourself whether you would respond better to the approach used by Pine Street — one of respect and trust building — or to the methods used by many other cities, which often includes this choice:  “Do you want to go to a shelter or go to jail?”  KS

 

 

One Night’s Journey

December 2011

Have you ever wondered what happens to Boston’s homeless men and women on cold winter nights?



Every night, Pine Street Inn’s Outreach vans head out, loaded with warm blankets, hot meals and clean clothes, offering rides to shelter. Through the cold and snow, the Outreach teams crisscross the city from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., serving people in need.

Here are just a few of the situations that Outreach counselors Nelson, Vincent and Maggie encounter during one night on the vans.

10:05 p.m., Financial District

Outreach counselors find two homeless women in their 60s, Susan and Annie, huddled together in an alley. Susan was assaulted the previous night, and Annie is determined to stay by her side “to protect her.” Maggie offers the women hot soup and a sandwich. She listens as they tell their story, but senses that it will take time to build their trust before they will accept a ride to the shelter. Reluctantly, the Outreach team moves on, but they will check on Susan and Annie again tomorrow.

1:30 a.m., Washington Crossing

Outside a coffee shop, the Outreach team finds Donald, whom they have encouraged to go to shelter before. Tonight, he accepts a ride to Pine Street. On the way, Donald tells the counselors that he has been sick. By the time the van arrives at Pine Street, Vincent has arranged for Donald to see a doctor the next morning.

3:45 a.m., Boston Common

It’s cold and raining when Nelson spots a light coming from under a bridge. There, Nelson finds James, who is trying to stay dry. Nelson has known James for three months and is slowly trying to build his trust and convince him to spend the night at Pine Street. James has not been ready in the past, but tonight when Nelson asks if he’d like a ride to the shelter, James says “yes.”

A warm bed and a hot meal were his first steps on the road to a better life. Today – with the help of Pine Street – James has a full-time job and is living in his own apartment.

5:00 a.m., Pine Street Inn

The outreach vans return to Pine Street and the counselors meet to talk about the individuals they spoke with the night before and prepare for the next night’s journey.

Video link: “Human Dignity is Paramount:

http://www.pinestreetinn.org/about_history.php

http://www.pinestreetinn.org/



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4 Responses to “Coercion or Cooperation?”

  1. This is exactly the type of story that I look for. In many places, homeless people are hunted like animals, rounded up, prosecuted and fined. None of those things address any problems. They merely target and persecute. This story is a good example of people doing things to actually accomplish solutions. Municipalities should be paying attention. Class is in session.

    http://georgesblogforum.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/the-daily-climb-2/

  2. Karen Shafer Says:

    George, I agree with your description of what often, even usually, happens to homeless people. When I visited Boston and learned a little about how they do things, I was very — and pleasantly — surprised. I too am often looking for positive stories and would like to know when you or others are aware of other cities who treat homeless citizens with respect and dignity.

  3. db Says:

    Most of these 10 year plans are all a scam. If you look at their founding documents they all contain the same language which is “appropriate and affordable.” The largest portion of the homeless population are single men who need immediate permanent employment. If they had that employment then they could get market rate housing and not even need this 10 year plan.

    The catch is that none of this 10 year plan housing is free at all. So if you are a homeless male and cannot find a job you’ll never qualify for the 10 year plan housing because in order to get this housing you have to pay. If you’re homeless without a job tell me how exactly can you pay? It’s not possible. That’s why I call BS on all of these 10 year plans. In fact many cities have ignored the plans and have no intention of seeing them through. It’s all BS.

    These 10 year plans do not intend to replace homeless shelters with some type of “housing first” intake system. The shelters will always exist with all of their crime, diseases, harsh atmosphere and prison mentality. I have sat on some of these 10 year plan councils and investigated them very carefully and I can say with almost 100% accuracy they are a total fraud.


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