Today I led poverty tours through neighborhoods in Greenville,SC. for two different groups of people. Some of the neighborhoods on the tour are blighted but with redevelopment work beginning. Others are completely built out and others have not had much, if any, work done on them.
When we’re driving through the neighborhoods, we discuss the good news/bad news aspects of each neighborhood. The good news is that many new homes are being built for people who have the resources to pay the rent or mortgage. The bad news is that tearing down a crummy house often means that someone loses a home. For those people who cannot sign a long term lease due to a criminal background, credit problem, or mental illness, that dilapidated house may have been the best they could afford or the only dwelling that a landlord would rent to them.
A bright spot on our tour is Reedy Place which is built on a housing first model. Twenty-three one-bedroom apartments are available to people with severe mental or addiction issues. Reedy Place provides a home and case management for some of those people who could not sign a long term lease. And let’s face it…people with severe addiction and/or mental illness are some of the biggest users of community services when one calculates the accumulated costs of hospitalizations, incarcerations, emergency room visits, and community services. It’s actually cheaper to provide an apartment with case management than having a homeless person remain homeless. At least that’s what the state of Utah discovered when it decided to become a housing first state with a goal of ending homelessness by 2015. So far, they’ve reduced homelessness by 75%.
If you’d like to develop a poverty tour for your own community, my book, Loving Our Neighbor: A Thoughtful Approach to Helping People in Poverty, gives a description of how to do that. The book is available at iuniverse.com, at online retailers, and at Ten Thousand Villages on Augusta Road in Greenville.