A widespread problem
Both Kelly and Boraca emphasize that homelessness is a much wider problem than commonly seen—and that people without homes, especially “couch surfers” and others staying temporarily with friends and family, are habitually undercounted. Far from the stereotype of jobless individuals sheltering for years under bridges and viaducts, many people are often two or three paychecks away from experiencing housing instability. Boraca says her student clinicians are often shocked to learn that about half the people living at Hesed House are currently employed.
At the CCH, the NIU Health Advocacy Clinic, and every other organization battling homelessness, having a comprehensive view of the risks is key to effective advocacy. “Our clinic students learn how lawyers work with health care providers, social workers, and other professionals,” Boraca says. “There are so many factors that contribute to homelessness—for our clients, success with transitioning out of homelessness requires a full-court press.”
“Providing a home is at the center of solving homelessness,” Kelly adds. “But if people don’t have the supportive services that help remove obstacles—whether it’s getting medication, receiving groceries, or having access to job opportunities after incarceration—we’re setting people up to experience homelessness again.”
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