By Amanda Carter
Chronic homelessness is a choice. I am living proof that anyone experiencing homelessness can get out and stay out, if they want. I am a mother of 3. I am a survivor of human trafficking. I am an addict working a program of recovery. Yes, I have been and have experienced homelessness. From experience, I know, Reno City resources and community assistance programs work.
There are so many excuses as to why a person is unable to get off of the streets. I do NOT want to hear them anymore. The only answer that is honest to me is, “I DO NOT want to.” Getting off the street and into a place of stability requires a person to find God, get sober, address and manage mental health issues while working a legal job.
In some cases, such as mine, I asked Washoe County Human Services Agency to open up a case against me. Child Protective Services safely watched my kids when I went into an inpatient program (free of charge) in order to address the substance abuse issues I had. I trusted CPS to give me custody of my children back as long as I was a fit parent. If I wasn’t willing to put in the work and address the mental health issues I experienced as a result of the unhealthy lifestyle I had been living, then my children deserved better.
I wanted to get off the street and away from unhealthy lifestyle patterns. First I found a church home. Then I began to utilize several services available to our homeless population. I followed the suggestions offered by these agencies intended to bridge the gap out of poverty into a life of self-sufficiency. I sought mental health services (free of charge), and yes, I have a mental health diagnosis. This is not an excuse for laziness or inability to work. I was able to seek services that gave me a hand up (not hand-out) as long as I continued to work and participate in recovery. Job skills and training programs, continuing education, and job placement services are gifts I received as a result of the hard work I did. I now have full custody of my children and live in affordable housing without subsidy.
I am a firm believer that the only publicly-funded housing initiative, which needs to be supported, is getting our chronically homeless off the street and into programs specializing in addressing the needs of this population. Many of our substance abuse and mental health facilities already in place have housing available.
Giving chronically homeless a safe place to do drugs and commit crimes is not the answer and is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Giving our chronically homeless population a safe place to live without requiring sobriety and providing optional services is a catalyst to community-destruction.
Our community has a surplus amount of resources that can be accessed by any and everybody experiencing homelessness or temporary poverty. When utilized and accessed, Reno meets the needs of those who need help. Those not accessing these resources do so because they do not want help, they do not want permanent change. These are the types who are homeless by choice. They want spare change and handouts. If we want to help our homeless population and those experiencing temporary poverty, donate and give to the agencies that can and do enable real change. This is our community. This is our city. Mayor Hilary Schieve has said, “Love Reno. If we can unite on anything, it’s Love Reno.” Tough love is a form of love and saying “No”, is a form of self-care. It’s time for change and that time is now.
Republished with permission of author & Reno Hot Sheet
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.
Amanda Carter is 32 years old and has lived in the Reno/Sparks area for 27 years. Amanda advocates change for people who want it. Responses welcome at: [email protected]