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Sat Dec 27, 2014, 04:27 PM


It Would Actually Be Very Simple To End Homelessness Forever

Kirk is doing everything you would expect him to do. Having lost his job amid the recession and been mostly homeless since September of 2009, he’s applied to literally hundreds of thousands of jobs – he has 12,000 pages with 36 sent applications per page in his email inbox – while also trying to navigate the Seattle-area homelessness system. He’s focused mostly on legal jobs given that he has a Bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary prelaw and a paralegal certification from a community college. He even managed to secure housing a few times, briefly, but lost one apartment when his unemployment benefits ran out, and was kicked out of housing through homeless programs twice because of errors in his psychiatric assessments. He also secured jobs twice, but they were both seasonal positions, one with the United Postal Service and another with Wal-Mart...

Someone like Kirk likely wouldn’t have experienced such a long bout of homelessness in the decades leading up to the 1980s. But since then, thanks to a series of events but most notably the gutting of affordable housing, the country has experienced mass homelessness not seen since the Great Depression. More than 600,000 Americans don’t have a home to sleep in on any given night, with over 100,000 chronically dealing with the problem.

Even with the size and scope of today’s homeless population, though, it’s not an unsolvable problem. The United States does actually know how to end homelessness. So why is Kirk still sleeping in a park?

The 1980s “was when contemporary homelessness really began,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. “It’s really critical to remember that we didn’t always have mass homelessness in this country.”

In 1970, there was a surplus of 300,000 affordable housing units in the U.S. But then, in the 1980s, affordable housing began to evaporate. The Reagan administration slashed funding. Federal spending on housing assistance fell by 50 percent between 1976 and 2002. At the same time, gentrification sped up, with cities getting rid of cheap housing like single room occupancy units and replacing them with more expensive stock, and units being built were more often for co-ops and condos for ownership instead of rent. Federal incentives to build affordable housing dried up. Add to that the AIDs crisis, the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, cutbacks to the social safety net, and the rise in incarceration and subsequent hurdles for reentry, and you have today’s crisis...

“The evidence pretty much indicates that if you provide people with a housing subsidy, their homelessness ends and they don’t become homeless again,” Roman said. That’s what Kirk thinks would happen for him if he could just get into an apartment. “If I got housing I’m sure I’d keep it. I know I’m mature enough to keep care of an apartment, I did it for years,” he said. “I know I could be successful for any housing program, but I don’t get in.”

It’s a simple, yet still radical idea, that for a person who’s homeless, the solution is a home.

The government is putting that idea to the test. In 2010, it launched Opening Doors, what it says is “the nation’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness.” The goal is to end homelessness among veterans by 2015, chronic homelessness by 2016, and to end it for children, youth, and families by 2020. Progress is already visible on the first goal, although it’s not clear if it will be met. Since the beginning of Opening Doors, veteran homelessness has fallen 33 percent and the number of veterans sleeping on the street has fallen by nearly 40 percent.

Some cities that are participating in the program have made even more progress. Last year, Phoenix and Salt Lake City both announced they had ended chronic homelessness among veterans. Both focused on a housing first approach, coupled with resources like job training and health care. Zeilinger said that New Orleans will end veteran homelessness before the federal deadline and is also on track to end chronic homelessness soon after that.

The solutions are there. The public is moving in the right direction. What is lacking is political willingness to spend money. But most are hopeful that homeless will end in their lifetimes. “I’m in my mid-40s, I grew up in a generation that did not have mass homelessness,” Jones noted. “It’s definitely not only a solvable problem, but an aberration from how this country usually works.” The challenge is to put it back on the right track.


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Reply It Would Actually Be Very Simple To End Homelessness Forever (Original post)
NewDeal_Dem Dec 2014 OP
daredtowork Dec 2014 #1

Response to NewDeal_Dem (Original post)

Sat Dec 27, 2014, 04:48 PM

1. YES - the solution is a home!!!

Also, "trickle down housing" does not work.

Dear Mayor of Berkeley -

When you focus on building luxury apartments with the idea that this will create "more units" on the market that will somehow bring rents down - this will not work to address the low income housing problem! Instead every landlord will seek to increase the rent up to the new "fair" standard (the highest that they can get - after all, everything is getting more expensive and taxes are rising, too). If they can't get their "fair" high rent, they won't lower rents - they will exit the rental market and go into another business they perceive as profitable. They will change the nature of the space from housing rental to storage units or artist studio space: whatever gets back up to that "fair" price.

Moreover, so many professors bought their houses at top of market now, they are forced to rent at top of market to make their mortgage payments.

There is no "trickle down housing".

You have to actually build the low income housing. Tough cookies.

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