Home > Uncategorized > Key Best Practices in the Shelter or Safe Place to Camp for Everyone who wants it Movement

Key Best Practices in the Shelter or Safe Place to Camp for Everyone who wants it Movement

I wrote this quickly before our CAR Camp press conference. Didn’t capture them all. Noted omission is utilizing Peer Navigators from the houseless community largely based on the wildly successful Community Health Worker programs for the Latinx community. Someone with respect in the community and an 8th grade education is more effective then folks with college degrees. Look it up if you don’t believe me.


Key Best Practices in the Shelter or Safe Place to Camp for Everyone who wants it Movement
as identified by Mike Trapp, MA, CCDP

Self Help/Mutual Aid: In the recovery community self-help programs help far more individuals and families then treatment and mental health providers without professional staff and minimal bureaucratic oversight. Instead oversight is provided by an engaged community and personal relationships. Our services to this point have been Self Help services project managed through an LLC; AAAAChange (pronounced 4-A-Change)

Radical Nonjudgement: Refined in 4-A-Change’s wildly successful street outreach program focusing on individuals who are homeless or panhandling in downtown Columbia our Crisis Shelter, Safe Camp and now Car Camp has shown the value of meeting people where they are at without preconditions and collaborating on how to advance the participant’s own goals which also enhances the larger community. It builds on Unconditional Positive Regard from Humanistic Psychology (Carl Rogers) but makes explicit individuals inalienable rights to autonomy.

No Barrier to Entry Approach: A simple COVID screening and agreement to adhere to reasonable project guidelines is all that is required for services. No intrusive questioning, paperwork or screening criteria are used to allow individuals maximum privacy and minimal hassle to engage in programming. The community is structured for safety with lots of “eyes on the street” and a positive peer culture with social correction according to the emergent EMTC model.

Programming is organized around individuals with multiple problems as the expected norm: Everyone who comes into contact with our programming is expected to have a trauma history, substance use disorder, mental health condition and/or personality disorder, physical disability and/or chronic untreated health issues, criminal justice involvement, and nicotine use. Individuals are also expected to have little resources, many barriers to achieve services and a fractured to nonexistent network of support.

Strengths Base not Deficit Based: individuals and families who are homeless are proven survivors with great potential for self-efficacy and positive change. The key is listening, rolling with resistance and supporting any positive steps forward no matter how small. Recovery behavior, speech and attitudes are expected, promulgated and quickly rewarded. Identifying an individual’s Last Period of Baseline Stability (Tell me about a time you did well…) is used to identify what success looks like for this individual.

Solution Focused: Identification of a person’s happy life goal is used to motivate towards immediate positive change. The Miracle Question has been stripped down to: “If you could be doing anything, what would you be doing?” and then stepped into goals and action steps that are supported and encouraged.

Critical Time Intervention: Services are provided as available to meet critical needs when crisis opens people up to the change process. Front loading services and supports for those on the move toward a better life replaces the episodic and periodic template-based services of traditional social services.

We are not a charity. We are not yet a social service agency. We are definitely not the government. We are a group of flawed and struggling individuals with lived experience working in solidarity with our unsheltered neighbors to build a Grassroots Recovery Oriented System of Care in Columbia and to ensure a more just and sustainable world.

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