Some homeless people are six months old.

Recently, I was going through a report of people that had just moved out of the shelter where I work. One person in particular struck me: A six-month-old baby who just moved out with his mother. He became homeless AND rehoused all before he was six months old. He won’t even remember having been homeless. […]

My staff is freaking out after an incident.

Dear Ryan, I am a manager at a food pantry. One of our clients (who has an intellectual disability) had an outburst. She physically rushed at one of our staff. Fortunately, she stopped short of physically assaulting the staff member. Barely. The staff member involved is very shaken. The rest of the staff is freaking […]

Someone is stealing donations.

Dear Ryan, I work at a transitional housing program for individuals leaving incarceration. We have a closet where we keep donated items (toiletries, clothing, etc.). Lately, a lot of the donated items have gone missing. None of the residents will admit to taking them. What do we do? Kate Kate, So, here’s the thing about […]

Scripts for people sprawled out sleeping on the floor

Dear Ryan, We are a library in an urban area. A lot of our patrons experiencing homelessness like to sprawl out on the floor and sleep. Do you have any scripts for our staff to address this issue? Thanks! Mary Dear Mary, Thank you for your question! You don’t need scripts. Conflict de-escalation is almost […]

Broken people heal broken people

There is an old saying in social work: “Hurt people hurt people.” If you have not heard it before, it means that people who are hurting often hurt other people. Unfortunately, it is true. The most vulnerable can be the most challenging. Many vulnerabilities (mental illness, traumatic brain injury, etc.) can cause problematic behavior. It […]

Christmas Eve in a Homeless Shelter

The following story is from my book “A Homeless Christmas Story”To see the illustrated version and hear it read by Actor Emilio Estevez, go to the URL doesn’t work, type it into your browser) Winter’s crisp darkness settled over the large, brick homeless shelter. Chicago winds whooshed snow across a frozen parking lot. Christmas […]

It is time to end homelessness.

Do you believe we can end homelessness? I do. Homelessness is something I have thought about 24 hours per day, 7 days per week for decades. I ran a large homeless shelter outside of Chicago most of my adult life. Now I travel the world teaching about homelessness. And I believe that we CAN end […]

Nonverbal communication of anti-gay protestors.

The Gay Pride Parade wound its way through the streets of Chicago in stifling July heat. A dozen protesters from Westboro Baptist Church stood in front of a 7-Eleven convenience store with bullhorns and picket signs. NOTE:  If you aren’t familiar with Westboro Baptist, they got famous protesting gay rights at the funerals of soldiers […]

Airplanes and frightened customers/volunteers.

I’m writing this email on an airplane from Chicago to Nashville. A few minutes ago, we hit some “rough air.” I fly a lot, so turbulence doesn’t bother me. This wasn’t mere turbulence. It felt like the plane was dropping out of the sky. Here is what happened inside me: My Amygdala, the part of […]