first of all, let me just say that the work that you are doing is commendable, and you should continue to aid the area homeless individuals in every way possible...but with extreme caveats!!!
Funding has been drastically cut and they need all the help you can give to them with securing a safe haven first....(shelters), and then BACK into permanent housing.
Remember, "where there is a will there is a way."
Also, I do agree with commonsensenote statements of the high correlation between mental illness, substance abuse and homelessness.
It is a fact, supported by past and current empirical literature.
This brings me to my next statement, which is, you better read as much of the hard literature, as you can find, as opposed to the picture books of homelessness. I would suggest that you go to a university library, pull empirical articles, supported by field research and read the millions that exist, and they will support the correlations, but will never teach you what you need to know to work with homeless people, as each of them will teach you. They will teach you that dispite their addictions and multitudes of personal trials, not one of them CHOOSE to be homeless,no matter what ANYONE says about it being a "culture" choice.
Take toilet paper and small towels and bottled water to them. Do not use over-compassionate religious measures with them, but never talk-down to them, they are most likely smarter than you and I together. Ask them to go with you to safety, and do not drop the ball when you get them started, get them into a $$$ recovery program immediately. You better know what you're doing. These are peoples lives, and they are used to getting shafted...even by well-meaning church people.
Lastly, safety is your number one concern.
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