There are numerous homeless support systems in place in Austin. It is not uncommon to hear those who don’t work directly with individuals experiencing homelessness express the opinion that our city does more than enough in the aid of these individuals. One visit to the ARCH (Austin Resource Center for the Homeless) tells a different story. Many of the staff are undertrained and underpaid. Often, when staff gain enough experience to truly be effective in their roles, they move on to higher paying positions with other organizations. Further, many of the tools said to be provided by Front Steps, the organization responsible for managing the ARCH, like phones and washers, are functioning in highly limited capacities. These services of the ARCH are listed in the contract between the City of Austin and Front Steps (http://www.austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=179706). As the City of Austin grants the ARCH contract to the lowest bidder (Bidding regulations for the City of Austin can be found here: http://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Contract_Management/Construction_Bid_Docs/00100__02.04.15_.pdf), it is in the best interest of a homeless organization to slash costs wherever possible in order to win said contract. Naturally, we want our city to spend as little of our tax dollars as is needed. But our system fails when we have homeless organizations willing to cut needed services and staff pay in order to win such a grant. Certain standards must be required of the organization responsible for managing the ARCH. It is time Front Steps stop working as a revolving door for underpaid staff and start paying staff enough to stick around. It is time Front Steps work as effective keepers of the ARCH or we let someone else do a better job.
Sign the petition here: ARCH Petition
The video here (http://wreg.com/2013/11/12/homeless-couple-given-home-strips-it-to-buy-crack/) has been used as means of discrediting the housing first model of ending homelessness. According to the video and article which follows, Patricia Brown/Douglas and her boyfriend, Willie Banner, were given a house via the 100 Homes Memphis program only to strip it as means of buying crack cocaine. Cases like these work to support the idea that drug addiction works as a barrier to housing homeless individuals. In order to understand how drug addiction may influence a person’s actions, we must first understand exactly what addiction is. According to the article found here (http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/how-addiction-hijacks-the-brain) by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, addiction has less to do with pleasure than the collective scientific community once believed. Initial use of addictive drugs may produce a sense of euphoria as a result of the drug’s tendency to cause the brain to release 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine natural reward-related behaviors do. It is easy to see how the brain’s experience of up to 10 times a naturally occurring release of dopamine may drive an individual to continue to seek out the experience several times over. But the experience does not stay the same. An addicted person’s brain produced less dopamine and eliminates dopamine receptors as a result of the recent abundance of dopamine. As a result, the addicted individual has to take more of the drug to achieve the desired effect. As dopamine works as means of survival by reinforcing productive behaviors, it is easy to see how one might chose an addictive substance over, say the window unit in his or her new house.
Neither the video or the article that follows make any mention of supportive services. It would appear these two individuals were given a house and told they were on their own. This could explain why Kelsey Johnson of Hospitality Hub reports seeing individuals like and including Patricia Brown/Douglas in shelter even after they have been housed. The presence of these individuals in homeless support programs even after being placed in housing would seem to illustrate a wanting for something more. As Brown/Douglas reports in the short video clip following the article, she felt lonely and sought out homeless social settings as means of connecting with others. There would seem to be a strong correlation between drug use and homelessness. Some say drug addiction is a cause of homelessness while others argue it is just as often an effect. Either way, how should one be expected to end his or her drug addiction when he or she continues to rely on the social structure he or she built as a homeless individual?
One man in the video suggests that treatment should be a prerequisite for housing. But drug use works as means of escape for many users. It only follows that rehabilitation may be helped and not hindered by removing pain from the addicted individual’s life. But removal of said pain is often not complete means to sobriety. Remember, use of addictive drugs tends to lessen the amount of dopamine an individual’s brain releases. Access to supportive services are and have been the means to keeping individuals struggling with addiction stably housed. According to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, clients of Permanent Supportive Housing programs “noted that supportive services have enabled them to stay sober, regain custody of children, and rebuild relationships with families” (http://www.oasas.ny.gov/housing/documents/finalfocusgroupreport.pdf).
The answer is clear. Housing first works. Individuals like the ones featured in the video discussed here fail to maintain their housing as a result of a lack of supportive services. The answer is not housing. The answer is housing first.
Thank you for contacting our office. As we move forward with open conversations about this critical issue, your comments will be submitted for review when this critical issue comes up. We take your comments very seriously and appreciate you taking the time to write to us. I will make sure that Mayor Adler is able to see this. Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.
Constituent Services Director
City of Austin Mayor Steve Adler
301 W. 2nd St. Austin, TX 78701″
According to opensecrets.org. you have experience with urban development related issues. We are reaching out to you today to request assistance with our cause. We have seen other communities end homelessness and save millions in the process. We are wondering, “Why not Austin?”. Please see our Website here http://nonyabidness.com and our Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nonya-Bidness/392213114309013. Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter.
Thank you for the “Like”s. As we gain support, our city’s public servants will have to see there is a better way to deal with homelessness in Austin. Below is our message to our Mayor, Steve Adler.
“Here is your message:
Your Name: Nonya Bidness
Your e-mail address: email@example.com
Subject: AUSTIN’S BROKEN HOMELESS SUPPORT SYSTEM
Message: Mayor Adler,
We are raising awareness regarding Austin’s broken homeless support system and alternatives to this system. We are gaining support via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nonya-Bidness/392213114309013) and would like very much to gain any assistance you may provide in making our proposed answer to this problem (http://nonyabidness.com/2015/08/25/27/) a reality. Thank you in advance.”
To Whom It May Concern;
As I previously offered, I would be available to meet with you and discuss your concerns or as you review available public records and have specific questions, I would be available to meet and discuss.
I have copied the ARCH contract manager with the City of Austin Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Front Steps Board President regarding your inquiry and will notify them of any meeting request you may submit
We thank you for your swift response and cooperation. Unfortunately, we will not be able to meet with you in person. If these rumors are unfounded, we would like very much publicly discredit them. In order to do so, we will need more than your word. Would you be willing to provide documentation regarding funding for the garage renovation, funding for equipment for the laundry room, and funding for the phone system at the “resource desk” as well as documentation of your most recent annual bonus? We would like to specifically see what funding was provided and how much was spent on each. We understand how such a request may be perceived as being founded on an enormous sense of entitlement. We apologize for that. Still, if Front Steps operates from a position of true transparency, this should not be an issue. We thank you in advance.
To Whom It May Concern;
Front Steps operates from a position of transparency and should you wish to meet and discuss your concerns, I would be happy to do so. Our financial statements are matters of record, are annually audited by an independent accounting firm and by City, State and Federal funding resources. Our IRS Form 990 is publicly posted and provided to funding resources.
I have copied the ARCH contract manager with the City of Austin Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Front Steps Board President regarding your inquiry and will notify them of any meeting request you may submit.
Thank you for your interest in Front Steps,
Hello Mr. G,
We would first like to introduce ourselves. We are Nonya Bidness. We utilize anonymity in the pursuit of truth. It is our intent to publish an article regarding rumor of a misappropriation of funds within the Front Steps organization. As we feel it would be unfair to publish an article based solely on rumor and you are listed as the Executive Director of the Front Steps organization, we thought we would reach out to you before going to print. After communicating with several clients of the Front Steps organization and visiting the ARCH several times on our own, we have come to identify certain apparent inconsistencies regarding funding and services provided to clients. Please forgive the insult this message may cause. Of course we know you may serve a generally mentally unbalanced group of individuals. It is not our intent to point any fingers. It is only our intent to find the truth. A FOIA request has been submitted to the city of Austin, regarding Front Steps funding. But we would also like to hear your side of things. To be specific, there is rumor of a misappropriation of funds regarding renovation of the garage, equipment for the laundry room, and the phone system at the “Resource desk”. It has also been said that you, yourself, have taken a rather substantial bonus, all the while neglecting services that may help the population your organization serves. Again, please forgive any insult this message may cause. We only seek truth and thank you for your time.
Who are we? Nonya Bidness. We are here to spread truth.