PATH – An Innovative Approach to Homelessness
Homelessness is a reality for far too many individuals and families here in the United States. In Los Angeles, the homeless capital of the country, there are approximately 82,000 people who are homeless on any given night (Weingart Center). The following are some eye-opening stats on homelessness:
- 42% to 77% do not receive public benefits to which they are entitled.
- 20% to 43% are in families, typically headed by a single mother.
- An estimated 20% are physically disabled.
- 41% of adults were employed within the last year.
- 25% are mentally ill.
- 48% graduated from high school; 32% had a bachelor degree or higher.
One of the major obstacles for our friends who live on the streets is the inability to get across town to receive all of the social services necessary to get back on their feet. Imagine for a moment what life would be like to take all of your possessions via public transit to find and (hopefully) receive the appropriate services you need. This is of course assuming that you know where to find these services.
A glimmer of hope in the midst of these systemic and environmental obstacles is an organization that I’ve admired for years: PATH (People Assisting the Homeless).
PATH is nationally recognized as an innovative and effective model for serving the homeless population. Last year, their PATHMall concept (see below) helped 4,500 individuals access the services they needed to break the cycle of homelessness in their lives.
The concept of the mall is simple. PATH works under the premise that most communities in America have the capacity to develop their service-integrated model. Here are five simple components to the PATHMall as stated on their website:
- “All Under One Roof”–Provide a “one-stop” social service facility to serve homeless people and people living in poverty. This is a place where people are able to address multiple needs in one location.
- Bring Together The Experts –Homelessness can only be solved when the whole community works together. One agency should not provide all of the services for a community. Instead, many different service agencies, both public and private, must work together in one facility to provide the support center that homeless individuals need.
- Provide User-Friendly Services –The environment of the mall must be up-lifting, positive, bright, and empowering. Our programs serving homeless people are based on empowerment, self-worth, and dignity. The physical environment, as well as the approach of the staff, must also generate a bright and positive outlook.
- Integrate Services –Insure that case management, client tracking, and program outcomes are linked among agencies, through a computerized database and regular case management meetings among agencies.
- Cost Effective –Agencies share the overhead cost of operating one building.
Please take a moment to click here and view a video of the mall.
I love PATH’s collaborative spirit, dedication to effective services, and a willingness to look for new solutions to assist the homeless community. It’s going to take these kinds of long term commitments, partnerships, and innovative ideas to bring relief to those affected by homelessness.
[Side Note: During the Origins Learning Tour this Friday July 23rd, we will have an opportunity to spend some time with Joel John Roberts, the CEO of PATH, at the PATHMall. Why don’t you join us?]