Community Development, Homelessness, Supportive Housing

Overcoming Intangible Barriers


Barriers that discourage or exclude anybody from participating in the life of the community are found throughout one’s recovery, and while maintaining one’s life.  Barriers to employment, for example, can be, as the saying goes, “not dressing up on the inside as well as the outside.”

At Columbus House, the Employment and Enrichment Center (EEC) offers a variety of skills classes and exercises for those experiencing homelessness and addiction to reenter community.

Yet, these courses are but vehicles to moving from a life of homelessness and isolation into the life of the community. The EEC’s goal is about achieving greater self-esteem, a stronger recovery from addiction, better control of psychiatric symptoms, greater confidence, greater life satisfaction, enjoying a life worth living, and having a life worth saving.

Learning that one can overcome intangible barriers is a process in itself.  The man who scored the highest on the KeyTrain National Career Readiness Certificate (and now works full-time) walked out of the training class thrice over a two-week period exclaiming “…I feel stupider now than before I walked in this class!...I want to kill myself I feel so horrible!...”  Only after a recovery support specialist engaged him in his ups and downs in moods and carefully explored his thoughts over this period was he able to continue.

Supplying tangible resources in a continuum of care -- life skills, job training, and housing -- does not ensure successful use or retention of them, especially to people too hopeless, too gripped by delusional fears, too caught up in mania, too confused, and too worried.

However, letting people know that someone cares, while forming a circle of care of a greater number of people able to help with specific aspects of life, can let opportunity arise for one to feel valued and respected in his or her community. Establishing this community can provide a rich and supportive environment, an environment composed of our relationships with others within which a full life is possible.

The Partnership is hosting “Creating Pathways to Economic Security for Those Who Are Homeless,” its fifth IForum of the year, on June 19.  For more information, go here.

Chris Evans is the manager of Pathways to Independence at Columbus House, Inc.

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