Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dignity at Home

This morning I officiated the grave side service for one of our neighbors.

He had relatives, friends and family. He died at home.

Dying at home is, oddly enough, probably the thing that stands out most. Until last year he was homeless. He was a member of Central Dallas Ministries permanent supportive housing program called Destination Home. While officially the cause of death is listed as 'natural causes', the real cause was years of life on the street.

The fact that he died at home really kind of lends an air of dignity to his final days. He didn't die on the streets. He didn't die in a fire in some vacant building. He didn't die in a shelter. He died in his own apartment, among his own things, in a life that was characterized by the dignity and care of friends and a network of relationships that enabled him to experience something that had been missing for a very long time.

Many people will ask 'What happened to his family?', 'Where were these friends, when he was on the streets?' I guess these are fair questions that should be asked, but I can tell you, as a former pastor that due to personal demons, bad choices, careless handling any number of people get lost. In the world as it should be, they would be rescued and reclaimed by people who care. In the world as it is, it just is not always the case. When that network of caring people is lost then its no longer a matter of who should have done what; it's then a matter of who will do what it takes. Central Dallas Ministries' Destination Home is a 'housing first' approach to ending homelessness that works throughout the country. It gets people off the street and provides them with housing and then seeks to address the other needs that they may have. The residents pay 30% of whatever income they have for rent, the rest is covered through a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

We hope to have our neighbors in our program a long time. The 'supportive' element to permanent supportive housing will be temporary, we hope. We look forward to the time when they need us to navigate the waters of everyday life, less and less. But the 'permanent' element, means just what it says - as long as they need a place to the dignity and self respect that comes with a home, they are welcome to stay. We know that some will be with us longer than others, but we want them to have the dignity that comes with home.

Even if, sometimes that means dying at home.

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