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Establishing mindfulness therapy as a resource for homeless individuals
The experience of homelessness is wrought with challenges related not only to meeting immediate needs for daily survival, but also coping with exacerbating risk factors, such as addiction, mental illness, and trauma. These risk factors are pervasive in homeless populations and act as barriers for the resolution of homelessness. Mindfulness Based Interventions (MBIs) are methods adapted from Buddhist Asia that have been shown through three decades of research to be efficacious in the reduction of symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, trauma, suicidal ideation, and the impulsivity of addiction. Despite the natural congruency between MBIs and the risk factors associated with homelessness, there is scant research on the implementation of these interventions in homeless populations. This research looks at the effects of an MBI that was implemented with recently homeless individuals in a rapid re-housing facility.The MBI was imagined as an empowerment engine for the all participants, including myself, as researcher. Rather then creating a process focused on concretizing research results via the examination of phenomena, this research prioritized trust building, compassionate caring, openness, and curiosity. In short, the qualities that underlie any loving, healing relationship and the understood fruits of mindfulness practice. The research design emphasized the voices of the participants in an active effort to mitigate the powerlessness and general absence of voice that accompanies the experience of homelessness. Through interviews with some of the MBI’s participants, the beneficial effects of the intervention are made plain. In the words of one of the participants, “This (intervention) helps me inner-relax. I get a sense of calm from not attaching to thoughts. They just come in and go out. It is a real release of anxiety.” The results of this research validate the effectiveness of MBIs to reduce experiences of suffering associated with homelessness. There is a compassionate imperative to make this resource widely available to homeless populations.