As the Emmy Foundation, we help the homeless in the cities where we work. That help is different from usual, but incredibly effective.
Why does someone become homeless?
No one becomes homeless for one reason, and you usually have to dig pretty deep to find the real reason. For example, losing your house is a consequence of something, so say the reason is “you lost your job”. But that’s still not the reason. Why did someone lose their job? Perhaps there is a relationship breakup? But there too, that break is a cause of something else, so what was that?
And if you keep asking a few times, you will eventually get close to the real cause… and that often lies in the psychological things. Something has gone wrong somewhere in the person’s psyche, and only when you get to grips with that can you start working towards the real solution.
Now there is only something tricky…. if someone is hungry, has no safe place to sleep (if there is a place at all), then you can talk about those psychological issues what you want, but that won’t work. If you look at Maslow’s pyramid, that target group is primarily concerned with the primary physical need. Eat, drink, sleep, survive, repeat. Nothing more and nothing less.
What are we doing?
So, our first step is to get that person off the street as soon as possible. The shorter you are homeless, the better. Someone who has been in it for too long gets used to it, and then getting out becomes more difficult every month. The primary target group that we help is still “shortly” homeless. And that is easier said than done. An example:
You need money to rent a room, but you need a job to generate money. The employer only asks directly: where do you live, and if you say “homeless” you will not get that job. And even if you have a job, before you can move into the room, you must first pay your first month’s rent plus the deposit of another month’s rent. How do you get that money?
We help a number of homeless people with some gifts, or a microloan to be able to take that next step. They must take the first step themselves so that we can see that they do not just “say”, but also “do”. So if they (for example) have somehow collected the first month’s rent themselves, we arrange a microloan for them to pay for the deposit. (or vice versa) And yes, that is a risky loan. You just have to see if you get that loan back because yes, you can get them to sign a contract, but if they “disappear” that paper contract is of no use. That is why they have to raise the first pennies themselves, after which we step in. That greatly reduces the risk.
Once they have a room, we coach them to the next step: find a job within one week. Doesn’t matter what, take whatever is there. Yes, that first job is probably bad and poorly paid, but anything is better than sleeping on the street. If needed, we help them to get some better clothing and things like that as well.
If they have that first job, we coach them to the next step: make sure you have at least 3 months of salary somewhere. Free money. If you lose that first job, there is nothing to worry about because you have money somewhere to pay for your rent. (as an example) Keep living on the same budget as you had when you lived on the street for at least 3 months. Keep going to the food bank, save everything you can save, create your own piggy bank in case things go wrong again. (we hope not, but keep that in mind)
After that, we continue to coach them for another six months. How do you deal with your money, are you in contact with the family again (and why not), what would you really like to do in your life and especially the question: where did it really go wrong, what was the real underlying reason, and how are you going to prevent that? We help them through therapy, coaching and counseling. And we also ask them the question: Who was God to you at that time? Because we also want to offer them a perspective that lasts forever. If they do something with that or not, that’s not our problem. We mention it and then let it go.
In this way, we try to safeguard what we have built together and not only for the short term but also for the long term.
How much does it cost?
Time. To get anywhere, you first need to build a relationship and trust. And that takes time. Before we can take the first practical steps, we will be 1 month into it (on average) and there will be a lot of time spend in coaching. That one month doesn’t seem like much, but in that time they are still homeless. The first month can be scary. After that first month, the more intensive coaching and therapy process can really start and yes, that takes even more time.
Money: in the first month there is quite a bit of coffee and tea, we sometimes give them an overnight stay (at our house or in a hostel) so that they become jealous of “normal” life again and want to get out of it even faster.
A kind of money: once they have completed the first phase, we sometimes give them a micro loan. In most cases that money will be returned, but we take into account that an X percentage must be written off. If you want to fish, you have to keep in mind that sometimes you lose a float. It is part of the job, but must be factored into a project.
To give you an idea, to get someone out of the street and into a room, and then get them to work takes about 40 hours of effort and 300 Euros in total.
With an average effort of 40 hours and for 300 Euros in direct costs, we can get one person off the street… and then we can honestly say: this is a sturdy and practical project with a high chance of success and with a (relatively) small investment in money and time.