Homeless Might Benefit from Sharing Rooms:
There are about 70,000 homeless individuals in Los Angeles County and in 2021-22 there were about 13,000 housing slots, according to LAHSA.
With about five homeless dying everyday on the streets, there have to be other options then waiting for construction for 57,000 apartments.
“It’s a free-for-all on the streets,” said SHARE! Board President Brian Ulf, who spoke to the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness in January.
Ulf is the board president of SHARE! (Self-Help And Recovery Exchange) a nonprofit, which uses a public-private partnership to house the homeless.
“When you send our kids to college, do you put them in an apartment by themselves?” Ulf asked. “No, you put them in a social situation like a dorm where they share a room.”
SHARE! employs the same concept of shared housing. The rooms are almost like an “Airbnb” where everything is supplied. When a person moves in, it is “turn-key.”
An advantage of using single-family private homes and mom-and-pop investor-owned apartments, means people go into housing IMMEDIATELY.
Twenty-three percent of people who want help move into a place the same day. About 41 percent move into a room within two days.
Shared housing is a fraction of the cost of new construction – and more importantly, the method is successful, with only four percent of SHARE! participants returning to homelessness.
Ulf told the PPTFH audience he was an alcoholic, which came to a crisis point when he suffered a grand mal seizure in front of colleagues. As he was trying to find recovery, “I lived in a hotel for 18 months and the YMCA gave me social support. But he was alone. “I shut the door and didn’t come out.
“That’s what people are missing on the streets, a support network,” Ulf said. “Homelessness is a moment in time, not a character flaw.”
Ulf said the majority of people living on the street have an income, generally between $900 – $1,800, which allows them to pay monthly rent directly to the landlord.
If a house has four bedrooms, that means it could house eight people, two to a room, each paying $500 a month, depending on the location.
The residents manage the house as a family. Peer staff, people who have been through homelessness or addiction, provide supportive services. “These are people with experience and who have lived it,” Ulf said.
“If I have a house with six Marines, I would bring in a peer specialist who was a Marine,” he said and added that homeless will cycle in and out of shelters, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing, unless they have social support.
With shared housing, a community is built and the people living there provide support for one another. Residents attend self-help support groups with people who may have suffered a similar trauma. The peer staff provides linkage to social services, employment and education.
The staff helps with problem solving and crisis management.
ULF said there is no one reason people become homeless. It could be because of unemployment, illness, mental health issues, end of foster care, accidents, substance abuse, a death in the family or a combination of factors.
But “Through peer pressure . . .residents see what others are doing – you’re getting a job. Maybe I should get a job,” Ulf said.
While in the home, people eventually are able to take jobs, which helps get them off government benefits, and that same support provides them from falling back into homelessness.
About 26 percent of those in shared housing have a job with a year and of those living in SHARE! housing 43 percent have jobs.
Ninety-one percent try self-help groups and 60 percent regularly attend those groups.
About a quarter of the people in SHARE! reunite with family. After stabilizing in this situation, 62 percent move out to market-rate housing. And 17 percent enroll in higher education.
Ulf was asked about the mentally ill.
“When you put ill people inside, it’s amazing how they can flip,” Ulf said, and added, “Recovery isn’t for people who need it. It’s for people who want it.”
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