Homelessness and the “revolving door syndrome”

One of my regular weekly habits is to visit the Street Spirit soup kitchen, which I do most Saturday nights.

I regard it as a privilege, despite thinking of more relaxing ways to spend a Saturday night and wondering how much good we are doing. I am grateful to the wonderful group of volunteers, who serve the guests, who let me just be there and do my own thing, which is to talk to guests, as well as volunteers and visitors. Besides giving out bits and bobs that might help and hopefully helpful counsel, a lot of it is listening to what folk have to say and encouraging them.

On the Saturday just past we had a visitor from one of the local Rotary clubs who wanted to get a better handle on Southend’s homeless scene and help to formulate a view as to what the club might be able to do to help. Strangely, why we were talking, two guests (not connected) from the past who I haven’t seen for over a year, stopped by for a meal and some bits and bobs that we give out, and we talked. Among other things, we reminisced concerning the past, reflected on the present and looked forward toward the future.

The meeting and subsequent conversation got me thinking “revolving door syndrome”, which according to my first Google hit “refers to the tendency of clients to get better for a while, and then end up relapsing. It most often applies to those with serious disorders, such as schizophrenia, but anyone with a mental health condition could potentially be at risk”. I didn’t think either guest had a “serious disorder”, although knowing their past alcohol addiction was an issue, and appeared quite normal, but both seemed to me to epitomize what often happens with homeless folk.

Being on the streets is tough and getting off the streets into a better place can be a challenge, and when it does happen, as it often does, it a wonderful thing to behold and makes what we do, despite obstacles, so worthwhile. Both my friends had since we last met been housed and for all intents and purposes were on the up. In the interim, events took a turn culminating in them becoming homeless and back on the streets. I should add that both “old friends” are nice, affable guys and they weren’t even feeling sorry for themselves. Despite the circumstances, I enjoyed out meeting and am hoping and praying they will again find themselves again on the up.

As I contemplated the meeting, I had with my Rotarian friend and these two guests, I realized that always we need to be doing reality checks – because what happened on Saturday is not so unlike what happens in the lives of many of the homeless folk we meet. When it comes to projects to address the needs “out there”, might I suggest a creative response to the revolving door syndrome.

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