“Change is Hard” read the screen behind keynote speaker Rosanne Haggerty at one point during the sixth annual spring forum sponsored by BSU’s Take Force to End Homelessness. Those gathered for the event, who work on the front lines battling this difficult social issue, know that indeed the road is difficult, but progress, when it comes, is sweet.
Several of those who spoke at this year’s forum shared success stories, as well as a host of best practices and inspirational words. The theme struck time and time again was the importance of moving homeless people not into shelters but into places of their own.
“It’s got to be housing first,” said Ms. Haggerty, president of Community Solutions and founder of Common Ground. “Basically, people get better once they get housing.”
This year’s theme was “Social Justice and Community Inclusion,” and included a five-year update on the progress made on the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, as well as student projects, and a panel discussion by three people from the Faces of the Homeless Speaker’s Bureau.
The task force was established by President Dana Mohler-Faria to shed a spotlight on the issue of homelessness and to bring internal and external resources to bear to bring an end to the problem. Dr. Michele Wakin, executive director of BSU’s Institute for Social Justice, emceed the forum.
In her talk, Ms. Haggerty listed 19 factors believed to be connected with higher placement rates, including knowing the homeless individuals in one’s community by name and making permanent housing for them the gold standard of success.
Following her talk, a panel discussion looked at the 10-year plan. Moderator Stephen Pike furnished the update in general terms, while printed materials given to the participants indicated that in Brockton over the past five years 42 chronically homeless individuals were placed in permanent housing units. There has also been an 88-percent drop in the number of homeless people sleeping on the city’s streets over that same five-year time span.
Larry Gottlieb, director of adult homeless and outreach services at Eliot Community Human Services Inc., spoke about his work on the streets and the need to engage the homeless and those at risk.
“Primary prevention, stopping people before they become homeless, is crucial,” he said. “So think prevention.”
He also expressed his admiration for the local folks who work with the homeless on a regular basis, as well as the organizations that support them.
“You have a very unique community here,” Mr. Gottlieb said.
The audience members kept busy taking notes throughout the event, and many their expressed appreciation for the work of the task force and the forum itself.
“Thank you for sharing, it’s awesome,” one man said in prefacing his question to Ms. Haggerty.
More information about this year’s forum can be found below. (Story and photos by John Winters, G ’11, University Advancement)