159. Rebuilding Lives


One of the recurrent themes seen throughout the US regarding the homeless population is that local communties seem to be notorious for their negative stance towards homelessness. That is, most communities view the issue of homelessness as something that is a nuisance to deal with. It’s human nature to avoid issues that are a  nuisance and most local communities follow suit in finding ways to avoid dealing with the homeless. Many cities deal with the nuisance of homelessness by making such ordinances as prohibiting panhandling, forbidding sleeping on public benches, tearing down homeless camps…all things that merely avoid dealing with the underlying issue of why people find themselves homeless.

It’s a rarity for people to tackle nuisances head on  and find a way to deal with them. It’s much easier to blame others, create divisions of “right and wrong” and never take the time to actually analyze the underlying problem of something that is seen as a nuisance. There is a lot of prejudice towards our homeless citizens. There is also alot of ignorance surrounding the statistics of homelessness. Many think that homelessness only happens to addicts or people who refuse to join the mainstream and get a job. The reality of homelessness is that there are many people just one pay check away from facing life without a home and many out there who will have some catastrophic event occur in their lives that will place them on the streets. In fact, we all might engage with a homeless person and not realize it….there is an entire population of “working” homeless that in fact do have low wage jobs but cannot afford housing and who don’t fit the stereotype of the homeless person on the street.

Luckily, there are communitites that have tackled homelessness not with avoidance but with insight and persistence. Columbus Ohio has found what is a role model for dealing the homeless of their community. Rebuilding Lives has found a viable solution to the issue of homelessness within the Columbus community.

Ten years ago, the Community Shelter Board’s plan to move hundreds of chronically homeless people into permanent housing seemed as bold as Jackie Graves was hopeless.

“But here we are,” Graves said yesterday.

She is safe and happy in her own apartment. And local officials are backing a $51 million expansion of Rebuilding Lives, the program that helped Graves and has since become a national model for linking the homeless with shelter and support that isn’t temporary.

It’s amazing how an issue like homelessness has become some sort of puzzle that most communtites have no idea how to handle.  It’s not all that difficult…if you have homeless folks on the street then the answer to this “nusiance” is to get those folks off the streets into affordable housing. Provide folks with a way to get off the streets and services that support the homeless and it’s taken care of. It’s my thought that the people who really want to get off the streets will thrive given a chance…those that embrace homelessness and don’t want the help can pass on it and endure the consequences of denying assistance. The statistics in Columbus certainly support the fact that once most people are given a helping hand out of homelessness only 9% return to the streets.

“The plan was hailed as visionary, even a little daring,” she said during a gathering of supporters yesterday outside the Commons at Grant, a Rebuilding Lives community that is operated by National Church Residences.

“You rallied behind it,” DiBella said. “Instead of wringing hands, you joined hands.”

Yes indeed…instead of wringing hands and avoiding this issue the folks in Columbus decided that homelessness was a cause worthy of their efforts,afterall, it involves the welfare of all citizens of the community. Seeking a way of making this solution work didn’t happen overnight ~it took creative focus and a vision by all to see this project to fruition.


Shelter board officials say Rebuilding Lives saves taxpayers money because it is cheaper to provide supportive housing than to pay for jail, prison, psychiatric care and hospitalization.

In monetary terms this is exactly why getting our homeless off the streets makes good sense. Spending funding and time on avoiding this issue are simply wasted efforts and does nothing to promote a solution. It’s also the right moral thing to do to help those in need.



Mayor Michael B. Coleman said other cities frequently study the Rebuilding Lives model. “Great cities take care of their most vulnerable,” he said. “Columbus is a great city.”

Rebuilding lives is indeed a role model for a means to solve the issue of homelessness in our country. Well done Columbus…I hope others cities aspire to follow your role model in dealing with homeless solutions and become “great” cities.



3 Responses to “159. Rebuilding Lives”

  1. June 28, 2008 at 1:40 am

    Where so many municipalities fail when it comes to reducing homelessness within their communities, is that – as you pointed out – they “deal with the nuisance” of homelessness, instead of seeking solutions to a human condition.

    Standard operating procedures for most cities is to look at what laws and ordinances other cities have adopted and then go with that… hopefully, cities will take a close look at the Columbus, OH model for a viable and remedial solution for homelessness and emulate that.

  2. June 28, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    RE: “Provide folks with a way to get off the streets and services that support the homeless and it’s taken care of. It’s my thought that the people who really want to get off the streets will thrive given a chance…those that embrace homeless and don’t want the help can pass on it and endure the consequences of denying assistance..”

    Amen! I appreciate the insight, survival tips and activism of “Wandering Vets”–you are not only saving lives but educating minds. Keep up the good work.

    Blessings, Lynn

  3. 3 Steve
    December 16, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    God bless all involved in Rebuilding Lives!!! Where do you start in getting something like this started?

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