Lexi Moubarak ’15
How often do you think about homelessness? Probably not very often. And you aren’t alone. Prior to my internship with Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless (RICH), homelessness rarely crossed my mind. I mean for God’s sake, there are so many horrible things going on in the world. How can we keep track of everything? Between the ISIS beheadings, the shooting of Michael Brown, and the first case of Ebola in the US, homelessness hasn’t been the flashing headline on CNN and BBC.
But according to data done by the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, last year there were 4,447 homeless people in Rhode Island. Families make up forty one percent of this number. This is a social injustice currently facing the state we all proudly call home. The most successful initiative to end homelessness has been to house people first, and then provide necessary services and employment. Housing first works. Only 5 to 10 percent of people housed first end up back on the street. Rhode Island has just applied to a campaign called zero2016; to end chronic and veteran homelessness by 2016!
And here is how YOU can get involved. On the nights of Nov. 10, 11, and 12 from 6-9pm we will be sending groups out across the state to assess every homeless person. It is called Registry Week and we need volunteers to join. It is OK if you can only participate in one or two nights. I am going to be holding a training session in the coming weeks on campus for all the student participants. We will be using a tool called the VI-SPDAT to assess the homeless. It is a series of questions, requiring about 8 to 10 minutes per person, to help us rank the homeless on a vulnerability index. This way we know who is the most vulnerable for dying on the streets and needs permanent housing first.
I know it is a commitment to give up a valuable weeknight. But, besides the fact that participating will look great on a resume, I PROMISE you this will be a rewarding and humbling experience. We need all the citizens of Rhode Island to get involved and help us end homelessness. It is already starting to get so cold out. I was out a few Fridays ago doing homeless outreach. It was only mid-September and I was cold in my sweatshirt. Walking around downtown handing out bus tickets, I couldn’t imagine sleeping on the streets that night, let alone sleeping outside in December. Registry Week is our best shot for getting the homeless registered so we can start moving them into permanent housing. And who doesn’t deserve a warm bed and bathroom?