Seizing the chance to end homelessness

Mother & Baby homeless picture

(Picture by John McCabe, from AliceBernstein.net)

Here is a great op-ed by Henry Cisneros (yes, the one that was persecuted a la Bill Clinton for his sexual escapades) about the need, and opportunity, to end homelessness in the U.S.:

The most recent estimate, and the first in more than a decade, shows that at minimum 744,000 men, women and children experienced homelessness in the United States on any given night in January 2005. Distressingly, about 23 percent had a disability and were homeless for long periods.

These numbers are derived from taking a snapshot of the problem; the reality is that homelessness is quite fluid and that over the course of the year about 3.5 million people are without a home.

These grim statistics add up to a single truth: There are too many people who experience homelessness and far too many who spend years — quite literally — sleeping on the streets. What these statistics do not address, but what we know is also true, is that many more people are living on the periphery of homelessness, at risk of eviction or living in a precarious situation because they cannot afford their housing.

Certainly we have the resources to end homelessness. And, importantly, we have the knowledge. Across the country, new solutions have emerged, strategies that focus less on shelters and soup kitchens — the proverbial hot and a cot — and much more on long-term solutions like preventing homelessness in the first place and getting people back into permanent housing rapidly instead of letting them languish in emergency shelter.

He is definitely right in that we do have the resources. In fact most countries do – they just need to focus the money on where it counts, not on petty things like war and corruption. This is especially true after hurricane Katrina.

While only government can fully stamp out homelessness, individual civic groups are the ones that are leading the way:

One breakthrough strategy is called Housing First. This approach minimizes the time people spend in a shelter by providing access to permanent housing and then, after people are stably housed, services that address other needs. That way, the individual or family has stable housing while they sort out how to make improvements in their lives.

I have seen great success with this approach across the United States, with marked decreases in homelessness. In San Francisco, Housing First approaches helped reduce homelessness by 28 percent; in Columbus, 46 percent among families; and 43 percent among families in Hennepin County, Minn.

The entire article is pasted below…

Henry Cisneros: Seize chance to end national tragedy of homelessness

Web Posted: 02/17/2007 12:00 PM CST

Special to the Express-News

The most recent estimate, and the first in more than a decade, shows that at minimum 744,000 men, women and children experienced homelessness in the United States on any given night in January 2005. Distressingly, about 23 percent had a disability and were homeless for long periods.

These numbers are derived from taking a snapshot of the problem; the reality is that homelessness is quite fluid and that over the course of the year about 3.5 million people are without a home.

These grim statistics add up to a single truth: There are too many people who experience homelessness and far too many who spend years — quite literally — sleeping on the streets. What these statistics do not address, but what we know is also true, is that many more people are living on the periphery of homelessness, at risk of eviction or living in a precarious situation because they cannot afford their housing.

Certainly we have the resources to end homelessness. And, importantly, we have the knowledge. Across the country, new solutions have emerged, strategies that focus less on shelters and soup kitchens — the proverbial hot and a cot — and much more on long-term solutions like preventing homelessness in the first place and getting people back into permanent housing rapidly instead of letting them languish in emergency shelter.

One breakthrough strategy is called Housing First. This approach minimizes the time people spend in a shelter by providing access to permanent housing and then, after people are stably housed, services that address other needs. That way, the individual or family has stable housing while they sort out how to make improvements in their lives.

I have seen great success with this approach across the United States, with marked decreases in homelessness. In San Francisco, Housing First approaches helped reduce homelessness by 28 percent; in Columbus, 46 percent among families; and 43 percent among families in Hennepin County, Minn.

Yet, while imaginative approaches like Housing First are paving the way, if we are to bring successful initiatives to scale, the federal government must take on a bigger role.

The current administration deserves credit for launching an initiative to end chronic homelessness, committing to create 150,000 units of permanent supportive housing, breathing life back into the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and requesting increases in federal resources for homeless programs.

However, homelessness is the symptom of a much larger problem in our country — the lack of affordable housing. In the context of today’s market realities, the federal government’s role in providing, preserving and producing affordable housing is essential to getting homeless people back into housing (thus putting the housing in Housing First) and, equally as important, for preventing homelessness in the first place.

Dramatic cuts in the Department of Housing and Urban Development budget and reductions in the number of housing vouchers make it more difficult — if not impossible — to end homelessness. Without critical dollars for affordable housing, communities — even those early pioneers demonstrating results — are doomed to failure.

But the good news is that this failure is not inevitable. We have an incredible opportunity to help communities move forward with their efforts to end homelessness. By replicating promising strategies, and by increasing our nation’s commitment to affordable housing, we no longer have to settle for placing a Band-Aid on this national tragedy. We can end it.

Henry G. Cisneros is founder and chairman of CityView, a real estate development company in San Antonio. He was secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration and is on the board of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

4 Responses to Seizing the chance to end homelessness

  1. mjau says:

    You have a great blog! If I may, I’m putting you in my blogroll. I touch on similar issues from time to time, but from a more philosophical point of view.

    In my country (Finland) we supposedly take care of everbody, but still there are people who, like you describe above, are on the verge of homelessness or eviction because of for example mental problems (making paying rent and so on difficult). And here also there are people who have the political inclination to not care about what happens other “weaker” individuals who can’t take care of themselves. It’s weird and frightening that helping others is made out to be a bad thing in these political parties (right-wing, conservative, neo-liberal etc.)

    The image you posted just makes me so angry and sad about your situation over there: tax money going to war and killing, and not to helping your own people…

    I wish you all the best!
    Mjau

  2. mjau says:

    oh and by the way: thanks for posting “My retarded president”, made me laugh, and made me very afraid…😀

  3. 2jay says:

    You have an interesting blog. I like to read about current affairs. I hope you do not mind that I am adding you in my blogroll. Homeless is a serious issue in many countries. After living overseas for quite awhile now, I appreciate my homeland very much. How fortunate I am to be born in Singapore. There is no such thing as Homeless in my country. Every Singaporeans with family own a home. Nobody is poor and not many are super rich either. The poor-rich gap is very narrow in Singapore. Thanks to PAP, the ruling party that has been governing my country since our independence day. The photo makes me sad. I hope the cries of the homeless people in your country are heard.

  4. truly.equal says:

    Thanks for the comments. Feel free to add me to your blogroll!

    I am working on a feature so I can blogroll blogs that have visited me more effectively… when I do expect to be blogrolled as well!

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