It’s Just Not That Simple…

We humans like things simple…black and white…cut and dry. Because of this many complex issues in our society get over-simplified just to help us maintain a false sense of order. Homelessness is one of the issues that often is misunderstood due to our tendency to shy away from the complexities that weave and tangle in and out of the issue of homelessness and poverty.

The truth is, for every homeless man, woman, and child there is at any given time living on the streets or in poverty, there are as many unique and different stories that each one could tell to help you understand the trajectory of their lives.

As an example, here is a recent snapshot of homelessness in the Nashville area from “The Contributor,” a weekly Nashville street newspaper, with the initials of friends that I am in relationship with through Sacred Sparks Ministry next to the categories that apply to them.

I do this to show that this snapshot is reality and indicative of the real men and women who live day to day on the streets and in smothering poverty. Indicative that homelessness and poverty is complicated. Indicative that despite what we want to believe, it’s just not that simple:

Between February and August of 2014, individuals who have experienced homelessness in Nashville completed 716 VI-SPDAT assessments with. VI-SPDAT is a self-reported survey that serves as an assessment tool to prioritize people’s access to services based on need moving homeless providers away from a first-come, first-serve system.

Of the 716 individuals surveyed:

  • 516 or 81% experienced chronic homelessness (JB, TP, EC, RN)
  • 88% had compromised mental health issues (BM, DF, ST, RC, TS)
  • 37% reported head trauma or brain injury (RC, EC, DF, CP, PS)
  • 78% had a serious health condition (RS, JP, JC, OT, JB, LS, AD)
  • 69% dealt with substance use issues (EC, JC, PS, EG, CP, LJ, DG)

Of the 516 identified as chronically homeless:

  • 53% had no health insurance; (AD, BM, VP, KH, JC, TS)
  • 49% dealt with tri-morbidity, or mental, physical health, and substance use issues (JC, AD, JB, CC, DG, JP, CP)

I only listed the initials of a few of my friends, but there are many more that could be included…Lord have mercy.


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