Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Review: Homeless Narratives & Pretreatment Pathways From Words to Housing

From the back cover: On any given night, there are over 643,000 homeless people residing in shelters and on the streets across America. What can we do to help?"Levy crafts stories of characters who sear the memory: Old Man Ray, the World War II veteran who resents the VA system and regards himself as the de facto night watchman at Port Authority; Ben who claims to be a prophet disowned in his own country, crucified by the government and enslaved by poverty finds a bridge to the mainstream services and a path to housing through the common language of religious metaphors, including redemption and forgiveness; and Andrew who has been 'mentally murdered' is helped to understand his own situation and gain disability benefits through the language of trauma; among others.
These stories are deftly interwoven with theory and practice as Levy constructs his developmental model of the engagement and pretreatment process. The outreach worker strives to understand the language and the culture of each homeless individual, builds a bridge to the mainstream services, and helps those providers to understand the special circumstances of these vulnerable people. Levy bears witness to the courage of these pilgrims who wander the streets of our cities, and his poignant book is a testament to the healing power of trusting and enduring relationships."
--Jim O'Connell, MD - President and Street Physician for Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program
The reader will...
Experience moving real life stories that demystify homeless outreach and its central objectives and challenges.
Learn about effective strategies of outreach & engagement with under-served populations.
Understand and be able to utilize the stages of common language construction in your own practice.
Learn about pretreatment principles and their applications with persons experiencing untreated major mental illness, addiction, and medical issues.
Discover new interventions via outreach counseling, advocacy and case management with people experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness.
Understand how to better integrate policy, programs (e.g. Housing First), and supervision with homeless outreach initiatives.

I know this seems like an unusual book for me to read but homelessness has become such a huge issue in our society and I wanted to learn more about it from someone who actually seemed to know what they were talking about.  I have to admit I didn't understand all the language used but I also don't have a degree in social work.  Now if you want to talk politics, I do understand that language.

What I noticed immediately is that Jay Levy is a kind and empathetic man.  It is also obvious that he is very good at his job.  Through this book he offers up insight into learning to communicate with the most vulnerable in a way which builds a relationship so that he can offer them assistance and they can understand and accept that assistance.  

What I learned is that society often categorize the homeless in demeaning ways -- drug addicts,
mentally ill, runaways, losers . . . What we forget is that they are people who need our understanding and support.  The problem is that the homeless person has often learned the hard way that the system is not to be trusted.  Mr. Levy offers a way to break through the distrust through communication.

In my opinion, some of the chapters were a bit difficult to read because I'm not a social worky person and don't understand everything written but I believe I did understand most of it.  Levy's heartwarming stories of some of the people he interacted with kept me reading.

I had to finish writing this review because my sister wants to read it next . . . and she is a social worky person and familiar with Jay Levy.