Homelessness in Chicago



HOMELESSNESS IN CHICAGO The increasing number of homeless people in Chicago is staggering. There are many people that need assistance with their current situation, but there are many psychological barriers that stand in the way of their progress. In professional assoctiation with these unfortunate people, several key factors determine how much help a civil servant can be. According to Walsh and Sarafincian (2010), there are: five predominant conditions that facilitate meaningful conversation between persons who are homeless and …professionals were revealed as…respectful engagement, casual nature of conversation, alternative settings for therapeutic conversation, effective listening and trust. (p. 937 – 938) Respectful engagement is very important because of its composition in respect to communication with homeless people. The professional advisor must put away the stigma attached to homelessness, and view these people as just that: people. It is imperative to take genuine interest in the person and getting involved with them on their level. That could be eating in the cafeteria with them, spending time with them outside of the traditional professional/client mode, be honest and make eye contact with them. Honesty is a key factor in being able to help a homeless person, as they can tell whom and what you are, and if you try to be sly or lie to them, they will notice it and will not be willing to share with you. Make and keep eye contact, and if you do not know the answer, tell them. Honesty is revered much more than deceit. When speaking with a homeless person, it is essential to keep the conversation casual. Do not appear as a corporate type of person, as these types of people daily slight them. You may be the professional, but it is imperative that the client not feel like a HOMELESSNESS IN CHICAGO 2 client, but as a human being. If the person you are talking to feels comfortable with you, the conversation will deepen on its own. Client comfort is the driving force for communication. When considering comfortable settings for communication, remember that the homeless person likely will not come to your office for a visit. This, of course, depends on the individual, but the professional needs to remain flexible with the homeless, as their schedules are erratic, and the often cannot stay in one place for an extended period. Try meeting at a coffee shop or going for a walk, instead of only meeting with them at a shelter. This will provide them with more security in what they offer you. In many cases, the best thing that you can do as a professional is just to sit and listen. Let them drive the conversation, as they want and need to be heard, but you also must earn their trust. By listening effectively, you can truly listen to your client, without judgment and allow them speak their mind. This is what makes a very substantial conversation, where there are no hidden agenda. This will in turn allow for the establishment of trust. For many, the establishment of trust is very difficult, as it was their trust in another that ultimately caused their homeless situation. It is particularly important for the professional to understand that the homeless person likely has a preconceived notion that you are going to label and judge them. It is of the utmost importance to recognize that they are normal people in extraordinary circumstances. The homeless will also likely feel a fear of you, given your status in the community. There will likely be a fear that you will notify the authorities of their situation, which can be a significant barrier. To prevent this, it is important to portray HOMELESSNESS IN CHICAGO 3 Yourself as their friend, not as an authority figure. Also, in speaking with them, avoid professional or academic terminology, which can be intimidating and actually impede progress. Speak clearly and simply so as not to make the client feel inferior or fearful. HOMELESSNESS IN CHICAGO 4 Walsh, C.A., Rutherford, G.E., Sarafincian, K.N., and Sellmer, S.E.R. (2010). Making Meaning Together: An Exploratory Study of Therapeutic Conversation between Helping Professionals and Homeless Shelter Residents. The Qualitative Report, Vol. 15 (4), p 932-947. The Facts about Being Homeless (2011) Goldie’s Place Retrieved from http://goldiesplace.org/new_web/homeless.htm Lemos, G. More than Flats and Job Training: Supporting Homeless People to Achieve Social and Emotional Aspirations. Housing, Care and Support, Vol. 9 (1), p 29 – 33