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The Top Reasons for Homelessness: Interview with Anne Marie Collins from Drueding Center


home with open door and sun rising to give hope for the homeless
Drueding Center provides transitional housing in the Philadelphia area

The Top Reasons for Homelessness

Interview with Anne Marie Collins

from Drueding Center


 

The truth is sometimes difficult to find, decipher, get to the bottom of … and with AI, it only gets more difficult. Because it’s a value, finding truth is worth the time and effort.

 

Even in fiction writing, things have to ring true.

 

Rickety is the name of a homeless person I created. When I researched for her backstory, I kept thinking, ‘What components in my life kept me from living on the streets?’ Education, health, resources, race, family?

 


And why did all those things line up so perfectly for me and my siblings?

 

I can’t get past the notion that it was sheer luck that landed me in Philadelphia, the 11th child of 13, with parents who worked constantly to afford dinner for such a brood.

 

All of us, shoved together around the table, familial chaos. Pretty much every night until we either started working or went away to college. ‘Hanging with friends’ was never an excuse to skip dinner.

 

For my rightful place at the table, I had to climb over the back of a pew. My father picked it up when a church was renovating after a fire. It fit perfectly on the one side of our ten-foot table. There I was, same spot every night, sharing food, conversations, opinions, likes and dislikes with everyone else.

 

It’s the randomness that baffles me, intrigues me, keeps me asking questions about the human experience and then writing about it.

 

Interviews are an important part of my writing process. The internet is full of information but the human element is paramount in getting to the truth of a thing.

 

I came across Anne Marie Collin’s posts about Drueding Center and I became hopeful in my quest for an interview. Anne Marie was a classmate of mine and is now the Vice President/Executive Director of Drueding Center in Philadelphia. I reached out to her and she was kind enough to answer some of my questions:

 

Can you give some background on Drueding Center? Am I saying it correctly /drood-ing/? Yes. Not many people pronounce it correctly. It’s a family name. The Drueding Infirmary was built in 1935 and then donated to the Sisters of the Redeemer in 1986 to ‘meet the greatest need in the community’. The infirmary was repurposed into transitional housing to provide a pathway out of homelessness.

 

(Here is a link to the history of the Drueding Center from their website.)

 

Can you offer fact based information as to why people end up homeless? The number one reason for homelessness is lack of affordable housing. After that, it’s unemployment, poverty, mental and physical health, then addictions. This is all over the country, not just in the Philadelphia area. If a community doesn’t have affordable housing, how can people afford rent? It becomes a downward spiral because not having permanent housing, an address, limits access to services.

 

(This makes sense when you remember we can’t even get library cards without proof of an address.)

 

Was homelessness always so prevalent in the United States? There was a big change during the Reagan era. Before then, when public housing authorities tore down 500 affordable apartments, they were replaced with 500 newer affordable housing units. Or, close to that number.

 

Now, they don’t have to construct the same number. 50 of the apartments may fall into the ‘affordable’ range, but that doesn’t help the other 450 families that were displaced.

 

(My link on homelessness research in Philadelphia.)

 

In the novel I’m currently working on, my protagonist comes across a woman, Rickety, living in a tent in an alley. It’s important for me to be respectful of this fictional character because she represents a vulnerable group of people. Would you be willing to read the chapters that include her and check for realistic interpretation? Yes. I want to know how she became homeless, though, and why is she isolated? Most homeless congregate together.

 

I’m developing her backstory in another novel, but I do have the outline. She aged out of foster care, has a basic mistrust for authority figures and social services because they took her mother away from her. Is that enough for now? Nearly one-third of youth who age out of foster care end up homeless. So there is an element of truth to that scenario.

 

I didn’t realize that about the foster care system. In my research, I did learn that homelessness is the leading cause for teens being sex trafficked. It’s called Survival Sex: they’re hungry, cold, lonely, and scared with no other options. I’ve interviewed the directors at Covenant House and Dawn’s Place. They offer a safe place and options to trafficked teen survivors. These survivors then help teens being trafficked. Is that what you find with the homeless? Yes. Peer to Peer mentoring goes a long way. It’s effective when someone who is struggling can talk to someone who understands because they have personal experience with the problem. Especially with teens. They don’t believe adults have the answers they need, but they will listen to each other.

 

(Talking with someone who personally experienced Victim - Survivor - Thriver gives hope to those struggling.)

 

 

Do you have knowledge of what is happening with the Tiny Village that was going to open up outside of Philadelphia? I had done research on it years ago and have been waiting to hear. Mayor Parker may be pausing it because of the lack of running water. There is a concern that the designated population would have to go outside the tiny homes to use the bathroom.

 

 

Which professionals and business corporations are you aware of that seem to be leading the effort to combat homelessness? I just heard Gregg Colburn speak at the NYC ULI Homeless to Housed Symposium. He doesn’t see homelessness as an individual problem but as a metropolitan problem. The Urban Land Initiative (ULI) does extensive work in real estate trends with insights from industry leaders around the world. In 2022 they published: Homelessness to Housing a ULI Perspective Based on Actual Case Studies. Pathways to HousingHousing First and Outreach Project Home are three organizations that Drueding Center works with to help our families.

 

 

The Librarian at ULI granted me access to ULI’s  published report on Homelessness to Housing. Click here for my summary on their findings.

 

This link (free podcast) explains why Greg Colburn sees Homelessness as a Housing Problem and here is a book that he co-authored with Clayton Page Aldern (Amazon).

 

 

Shout Out to Anne Marie Collins for the great work she is doing at Drueding Center.

 Check out their website to learn more about how great people

are making a difference.

 

If you want to be part of the solution, please consider making a donation.

 

 

Giving back to our communities is how communities thrive.

 

 

 

 

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