Blending in with the neighborhood is one of the nice things about Kenton Woman’s Village, a well designed community for the homeless set in an established residential community. The village doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Unlike many places who don’t want the homeless in their neighborhood, most of the neighbors welcome the residents of the village. In fact, they helped build it.
The village consists of clean lined tiny homes, designed by local architectural firms. Catholic Charities operate the village under contract with the county. Residents have to pass a background check and have a case worker through Catholic Charities.
The goal of the community is to work towards permanent housing. There is security 24/7 and a full-time manager. Funny, one of the reasons the president of The Advocates for The Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) in Bucks County, PA poo-pooed my proposal to join the non-profit another guy and I were trying to launch in our effort to provide more housing for the homeless was that 24/7 security would be needed.
Across the river in Burlington Township, New Jersey, homeless advocates, Citizens Serving The Homeless, have drawn up a plan, made a drawing of the proposed community. The neighbors were very hostile at the meeting the homeless advocates held this past February. This did not deter the advocates. They are pressing on and even hired a lawyer to help pave the way for the homeless community.
Like the Kenton Women’s Village, the Burlington project’s goal is to give the homeless a hand up and help them become self-sufficient and will provide mentoring.
The biggest hurdle to jump to create housing for the homeless is accepting the homeless, welcoming them into the community. People should get to know the homeless, and not base their attitudes on stereotypes. Maybe if they get to know them, know all about them, they may like them. Picture the homeless, an association of homeless people, have a slogan: “Don’t talk about us; talk with us.”
I’ve talked with and hung out with the homeless in Bucks County, PA. I’ve read books, searched stories and opinions about the homeless on the Internet and have divined that they are not the walking dead, they are not all panhandlers, druggies, thieves, drunks, violent. Certainly some are. One reason people are prejudice against the homeless is that, although they may be spread out like tribes, they are a group that have in common just being homeless.
Some of the tribes are hostile, mainly with each other and on some occasions, most often driven by booze, with non-homeless people who come to community meals. Some tribes act like the schoolboys in The Lord of The Flies, where they attack others in the group. Recently in Bucks county two women ganged up on another woman. Reminds me of what Ann Coulter wrote about the barbaric Celts in her book Mugged, that the women were more brutal than the men.
When homeless people ape the characters in the novel, the community, which in many cases already have some deep-seated stereotypes of the homeless, will not warm up to them.
The Women’s Kenton homeless village does background checks as will the Citizens Serving The Homeless for their homeless community. As is the case with any complex, people need to be screened to ensure peace and civility in the community. Civilized, not anti-social behavior is the key to helping the homeless as is understanding them and getting to know people as individuals. We can overcome homelessness.
“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you.” -Leviticus 25:35-36