Covid-19Magazine Features

Ending the homelessness cycle

Homelessness can assume many faces.

Some people live on the street due to serious mental illness, substance misuse, HIV, and other chronic health conditions.

Others survive domestic abuse or military violence that result in disabilities such as PTSD.

There are those who age out of foster care at 18 and lack basic management skills that would help keep a roof over their heads.

Even more are seniors who need support.

“There is a spectrum,” says Major Leo Lloyd, who leads The Salvation Army in Glens Falls, N.Y. “Without support, these folks will cycle through shelters, through emergency rooms, through programs, and never have stability.”

Leo doesn’t want to see that happen. He has a lot of hope in a $2.5-million state grant that will help bring 20 units of supportive housing to the area.

The funding, through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative, will provide $20 billion over the next five years. The plan is to develop 100,000 units of affordable housing and 6,000 units of supportive housing in New York.

Leo said The Salvation Army is seeking to construct a new building or rehabilitate an existing one in order to bring long-term housing to the area.

“We have funding right now for 20 and we’re working with local developers to see how we’re going to develop those units,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure that part out. We’re in the developmental stage of trying to figure out, “Do we want to own a building, build a building, rent apartments or work with a developer who wants to build them for us?”

 

COVID–19 wreaks havoc

Leo said homelessness “is a problem everywhere,” not just in his pocket of upstate New York.

“I think it’s more visual in an urban environment where you have higher concentrations of folks,” Leo said. “But it’s not any different anywhere else. The percentages of the population that are homeless remain fairly consistent wherever you are. It’s a problem because it’s cold up here. We tend to be more rural, but the problem is the same everywhere you go. It’s not just an urban issue.”

Leo said COVID-19 is “exacerbating homelessness” and many people who were once making a decent living have found themselves coming to The Salvation Army for help. He also has seen many people stuck in motels since the beginning of COVID–19; shelters are full and with a moratorium on evictions, housing is at a premium.

“We have lots of families who got stuck in the process and are just spinning in limbo in hotels,” Leo says. “I happen to live in a resort area and all of our motels are just full of homeless folks.”

The housing units Leo hopes to provide, known as “supportive housing,” are affordable and often include onsite services to help people who were formerly homeless.

“Those homeless individuals will eat up a lot of resources and so what the state of New York has said is, ‘Let’s target these folks and let’s make sure that we can help subsidize their housing,” Leo said. “Let’s make sure that they have somebody who can take care of them.’

“That’s what we do as The Salvation Army. We’re well-acquainted with these folks just because of the services that the Army provides through feeding programs and drop-in centers. This is the same population that you’re going to see in our ARCs and homeless shelters.”

Leo said he foresees “synergy” with programs like the Army’s Pathway of Hope, where clients get a case manager to help them get back on their feet. Meanwhile, health home care managers will help people get to medical appointments and handle their medications.

“You start to see there’s a synergy of wraparound care that we can begin to provide for people in the community who are the neediest,” he said. “That’s our pledge. That’s our promise to do the most good for the most people in the most need. We just see that as part of fulfilling the mission of preaching the gospel and meeting human need.”

 

Finding deliverance

Leo said most of the people he sees are “searching” for God and he is all too happy to help with spiritual care.

“Most of them will reach out to us,” Leo says. “What we say is ‘Where are you spiritually?’ It might be a simple question like that. ‘How are you doing spiritually, sister? How are you doing spiritually, brother?’”

The answer, most of the time, is ‘not so good.’

“That opens the door to ask more questions and talk about their spiritual journey,” Leo said. “That can lead to salvation or at least an opportunity to pray with a person and share God’s love. They’re very aware that Salvation Army officers are ministers. We bathe everything in prayer and scripture. So, it’s not a shock to them for us to have these kinds of conversations. The idea then is to encourage them in their spiritual growth and development by getting them involved with the corps and with church programs.

“Those conversations flow naturally when you’re in a soup kitchen, a shelter, or an ARC environment. Those folks are hungry for the gospel.”

Leo said many show up with major issues and are battling demons, both literally and figuratively.

“They need divine intervention,” he said. “I know that’s maybe not the most politically correct conversation to have today about principalities and powers and spirits of darkness and those kinds of things. But they often need deliverance and intercession for oppression and even, on rare occasions, for possession. I don’t know anybody else who’s going to take care of that part of the ministry, certainly not in a secular role.

“Sometimes we see results with individuals that secular social services are not going to see. There is a deep spiritual component that Salvation Army officers bring. It comes with the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit and in deliverance from some things.”

by Robert Mitchell

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