Remember the popular 80’s song by Phil Collins called Another Day in Paradise? (If you’re too young to remember, you can likely hear it on the oldies station.) It addresses the unfortunate reality of how most people deal with the homeless population: we don’t. Or if we do, we don’t know how to help in a way that is effective or useful.
Thankfully, there are people who not only care about the homeless in theory, but are also taking the initiative to do something to help them and impact the quality of their lives for the better.
One of those people is Dr. Ed Clarke, sociology professor at Vanguard University. Dr. Clarke, in collaboration with the Churches Consortium, presented data on findings from what is called the YOU Count initiative from last October. The findings were largely based on interviews that Vanguard University students and other volunteers used to better understand the needs of the homeless in Costa Mesa with the goal of providing useful assistance and improving conditions.
But the interviews weren’t the beginning of this initiative, nor will they be the end. Dr. Clarke has been involved in studying the homeless with the purpose of improving conditions since 2008. In fact, the work he’s done began as a study he implemented on homeless mothers. From there, he focused on accumulating valid and reliable data and developed a system for future research. In 2011, Dr. Clarke set his sights on rapid rehousing and homeless prevention with the end goal of replacing temporary and emergency shelters with permanent supportive housing. His work has assisted government agencies such as the Homeless Management and Information System (HMIS) in improving the collection methodology used for the enumeration performed every three years.
Dr. Clarke has been highly successful in mentoring his students to develop a repertoire of knowledge in social theory and research methods and apply what they’ve learned in the classroom through experiential learning by doing, which, in turn, results in deeper learning.
So what are some next steps? Housing! Yes, you read correctly. Providing housing is the ultimate goal. To get there, Dr. Clarke and his team are working toward an integrated model of data management so that the chasm between perceived needs and actual needs is bridged. The hope is that the work the team is doing here in Costa Mesa will serve as a useful model for other cities to adopt to ultimately eliminate homelessness.
So….what can you do to help in the meantime? Get involved! Click here for more information on how you can get make a difference.
Click here to see the recent article in the Daily Pilot about YOU Count.