This friend of homeless out to find solutions
With a doctorate in law and a sharp mind, Gary Grier could have had a comfortable life as a high-priced attorney.
Instead, Grier, director of community engagement at the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, and a cadre of volunteers can be found roaming the streets as early as 6 a.m. in search of homeless people who need someone to throw them a lifeline.
Grier wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m thankful I fell into nonprofit public work,” says Grier, whose laundry list of responsibilities includes determining how many homeless people there are in the area and community needs assessment. “It's a certain humbleness to work with these folks. I certainly gain a lot from this job.”
Part of Grier’s work responsibilities is to determine why people end up without a roof over their heads and what can be done to ensure they stay off the streets.
Homeless advocacy groups’ embers were rekindled when President Obama signed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act. Among its goals are to ensure individuals and families who become homeless find permanent housing within 30 days.
“The HEARTH evaluates communities according to how successful they are in getting people out of homelessness jointly and preventing return visits to homelessness,” says Grier. “It’s very costly if they’re relying on emergency systems.”
Part of what Grier wants to accomplish is to dispel stereotypes about why people become homeless.
“With the majority of homeless, very few are panhandlers,” says Grier. “Sometimes panhandlers might not even be homeless. There are many people who are homeless who are good people, and they’ve just had some kind of circumstance -- a disability, a loss of a job -- and it just snowballs. It’s a lot harder to get somebody who’s on the street, off the street.”
Regardless of the reasons why people end up without a roof over their heads, Grier has discovered there’s a commonality among many of them in what they want for the future: To find a job that will end their white-knuckle existence.
“There’s certainly a lot of triggers to homelessness,” says Grier. “Domestic violence, disability are a few, but the main triggers are the loss of that income or they had two incomes and there’s a divorce, and now only one wage earner or someone dies.”
ABOUT GARY GRIER
OCCUPATION: Director of community engagement at the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County
CONNECTION: Grier is affiliated with the Coalition
for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County
FAST FACT: Volleyball is Grier’s favorite sport. He has played on a handful of adult club leagues and has played in Cologne, Germany; Puerto Rico; and all across the United States.
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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