SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News)- There are many causes and contributing factors of homelessness, and experts say it is difficult to pin down one specific cause.
Jeniece Olsen, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and the Director of Supportive Housing Services for The Road Home explains, “Homelessness is so complex. When people ask about what causes it, it’s a long conversation. It’s systemic in nature.”
However, many experts including Olsen agree that trauma is often a contributing factor in homelessness.
Marie Jackson, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Volunteers of America’s Cornerstone Counseling Center says, “Imagine a three legged stool–we have addiction, and we have mental illness, and we have homelessness, and the common uniting factor is a history of trauma that links these things together.”
In fact, more than 93 percent of families who face homelessness have a lifetime history of trauma.
Jackson says trauma actually changes the development of your brain.
“The part of your brain that is responsible for the ‘fight or flight,’ for being vigilant to the threats around you is often over-developed, and the part of your brain that helps regulate and calm down…is often underdeveloped,” she explains.
That is why many organizations, such as The Road Home and Volunteers of America, are implementing trauma informed care.
“Trauma informed care, in a nutshell is…an approach that helps us think about what has happened to a person, rather than what’s wrong with them,” says Jackson.
Trauma informed care is involved in every aspect of interacting with someone. It can range from the way you speak with someone, to the decoration of the physical space that they occupy.
Olsen says, “Something as simple as even the way you greet a person, or the way you offer choices or solutions to a problem can help re-empower that person and can actually help repair the brain.”
Sarah Havealeta is a family case manager at The Road Home in downtown Salt Lake City who uses this approach to help her clients every day.
“Being able to have that mindfulness of knowing that this person has been through trauma and we can talk to them in a way or work with them in a way that won’t reactivate them,” says Sarah.
In fact, experts say the approach is helping people recover, get into housing, and stay in housing.
Trauma informed care is also being used in prevention of homelessness, drug abuse, and more.
For more resources, information, or to get involved, visit the links below.
Volunteers of America:
The Road Home
Rescue Mission of Salt Lake:
Salt Lake County Local Homeless Coordinating Committee:
Pamela Atkinson Homeless Trust Fund:
Resources for those in need of services:
Call 211 or visit 211utah.org