Empower Homeless People to Get Off the Street
Three Big Steps – LOTS of Baby Steps
What does it mean to “take responsibility”? Is this just an overused cliché?
Or, is it possibly the single greatest skill a person can be empowered with – the secret to a life of joy, success, and productivity?
The problem is – taking responsibility is hard. And not just for homeless people.
But especially for homeless people, who are so used to either being ignored or given free stuff and then left on their own, the idea of being “responsible” is so far outside their everyday life that it has no meaning.
Babysteps works to empower homeless people – one small step at a time – and builds within them the confidence to take ownership of their lives.
So – what might “responsibility” look like for someone who’s been on the streets for 15 years? Hardened. Discouraged. Dependent on substances. Alone.
It will look different for every single person.
That’s why Babysteps doesn’t use a one-size-fits-all approach. We do use a program called Holistic Hardware as a basic guide for our work, but at its core Babysteps is about relationships.
Big Step 1: Relate
Our first step is to go out and meet people.
We spend time with them. Lots of time. Every Saturday, a group of us gives our time to people living on the streets of Seattle. We get to know them. We have no agenda. We don’t try to convince them to go to this shelter, or enter that program, or stop drinking, or try to get a job. The secret to empowering a homeless person is relational trust. And trust takes time.
We just relate.
Why is this so important? Because homeless people are so used to the two forms of relational experiences mentioned above: Being ignored, or being given free stuff and told what to do. Neither of these has any positive long-term effects.
We sidestep all that, and just get to know them.
Big Step 2: Empower
This is where responsibility takes root.
As we become friends with a homeless person, we discover what they want and desire. What frustrates them, and why they lose hope. Their unfulfilled and broken dreams.
And because we’ve built this trust, we can begin to lead them to take steps to change their lives.
Learning to Live a Responsible Life
What is a baby step of responsibility for a homeless person? It could be any number of things:
> Set up a P.O. Box
> Get or renew an ID
> Apply for a job, or show up to the one that took a chance and hired them
> Make it to a parole appointment every week on time
Sometimes, that first step could be as simple as making a phone call yourself, rather than having someone else make it for you.
Something that tiny! That’s why we call them “baby steps.”
But you’d be amazed how many well-meaning people and homeless nonprofits in Seattle will do all the legwork for something like this. Find the website. Locate the phone number. Get a phone with minutes on it. Dial the number. There are people who will do all of this for a homeless person, and then just hand them the phone. And again – they mean well, and have huge hearts. We’re not trying to criticize.
But sometimes, they won’t even hand them the phone – they’ll make the call themselves and speak on behalf of the ‘helpless’ homeless person.
How is someone going to learn to advocate for themselves if other people keep doing all the little stuff for them?
We do not do things for people they can do for themselves. We empower homeless people to take the steps — however small they are — to change their lives. The reason our approach works is because of one crucial element: Patience. We wait until they are ready for each step.
You don’t give an infant the keys to the convertible.
Big Step 3: Transform
Our ultimate goal is to lead people out of a life of dependence, depression, and addiction.
We do this using a program called Holistic Hardware, a 10-part program that challenges participants to grow in 10 key areas such as self-worth, managing finances, vision for life, and discipline.
Transformation like this cannot be forced. But when a homeless person is ready, this program provides the inspiration, the examples, the instruction, and the discussion and training that will help them take the final lasting steps to real life transformation.
Why Babysteps Gives Food to the Homeless
As part of our program, Babysteps Ministry gives away free meals to homeless people. In fact, our long-term goal is to do this once a week.
Why do we do that? Isn’t this going against our whole approach?
The difference is, most homeless nonprofits give food away just to feed people.
We give food away to build relationships. It’s a way to initiate. To open doors. To begin.
For us, food is a means to a much greater end – a life of confidence, hope, and renewed responsibility.
And, for many homeless people, acquiring their own food is too large a step.
They get food stamps, spend all the money within one week, and now they’re hungry.
Does that person need to learn to manage money better
But is that the first step they’re ready to take?
Babysteps Ministry fights homelessness through two intensive phases: Relate, and Empower. Then, once the person is ready for real life change, we lead them on the road to Transformation.
We relate first, and food is one way we do that.
But then, after we build that relationship, we start to empower.
And that’s when you see real change happen.