In the next 6 months, I wish to create a network of health professionals, social and outreach workers, and volunteers who are willing to participate in creating a nonprofit with one goal of building and running Drop in Houses for the homeless.
Drop in House
Taking a shower – we take it for granted. For most Americans taking a shower is simply a matter of walking into the bathroom and turning on the shower faucet. It’s a part of the routine they don’t even think about. However for homeless people, fulfilling this simple need is an every day challenge.
You might think that the obvious solution for homeless people is shelter, but the fact is that many homeless people avoid shelters for number of reasons. Some of them are listed here:
- Complicated , often an invasive and disrespectful check-in process – Homeless people are often asked if they have a family member or girlfriend/boyfriend they can stay with, basically encouraging them not to use the facility
- Staff Assumptions about Drug Use and Criminality
- Danger of Theft, No protection from thieves
- Fear of Contracting Parasites - No matter how clean a facility is kept; the danger of getting parasites by using it is still very high.
- Hours of Operation Incompatible with Work Hours – Many homeless people work and it is impossible for them to be on time to use the facilities
- Danger of Rape or Assault - Homeless shelters are often hunting grounds for human predators. Attendants and volunteer workers in the shelters are not trained to deal with that problem.
- Lack of Handicapped Accommodations
- Disabilities make use difficult
Some homeless people with income use gym showers, but again for less fortunate ones that option is not available. In order to obtain personal hygiene many are forced to use alternative places such as public bathrooms in city parks, bus and train stations, truck stops, and fast food restaurants.
For women who are homeless, there is an additional burden to personal hygiene: their menstrual cycle. Families with children, especially if the children still require diapers also face extra challenges.
Homeless: A high risk group for the public health
Homeless people are three to six times more likely to become ill than housed people (National Health Care for the Homeless Council, 2008). Their living conditions (lack of basic hygiene such as inability to wash and change clothes) provide an ideal setting for the spread of lice, fleas, ticks and mites. On the other hand, poor hygiene conditions along with the limited access to health care systems both contribute to the increasing spread of the respective arthropod-borne disease.
The idea to establish the Drop in House is in the first place the idea of the homeless people themselves who when asked: What do you need the most? answered: A shower so I can clean myself and wash my clothes.
Goal of the program
The overall goal of the project is to contribute to improvement of the access to rights of the homeless people who request or consent to service which is offered. This is going be achieved through founding Drop in Houses where homeless people can have easy access to shower and washing/drying facilities. The Drop-in House is going to be a “safe” place for homeless people where they can maintain personal hygiene and receive medical care. Furthermore, it will ensure access to other services, rights and measures offered by the system of health care, social protection and other relevant systems.
Services offered in the Drop-in Houses are going to be designed in cooperation with homeless people, outreach workers, and with consultations from partner organizations as well as partners from the New York City Department of Homeless Service.
People working in the Drop-in House
People working in the Drop-in House should be trained medical staff and volunteers who are available from 6am to 10pm. Apart from them, there should be outreach workers who regularly visit homeless people in places where they live and work.
The principles of operations
The Drop-in Center is going to be widely recognized after two basic principles. It is the principle of simple check in procedure and principle of consent . These principles does not entail unlimited freedom of choice in an unlimited time frame or creation of space which is completely free from rules and conditions. Professionals working with homeless acknowledge that they need structured space since it provides a sense of security. However, all of the Drop in programs will follow the principle of consent, as it recognizes it as a critical phase even though it is just a temporary solution.