Two For One

Posted: July 29, 2007 in Bureauacracy, Friendship, Homelessness, Money

There are two homeless men I know who may finally have a chance at getting off of the streets and into a place of their own. Both of them are disabled and are receiving disability benefits.

Between them, they have a combined total of about 7 seven years being homeless. And, between them they hope that they will be able to maintain their new place.  

With the cost of housing in this area being as high as it is, both of them found themselves homeless at just about the same time.

Although they both qualified for low income housing vouchers through the Housing Authority, the lack of available low income housing units made it next to impossible for them to find a place on their own. To further complicate the situation, when the Housing Authority does authorize a low income housing voucher for someone that person must find a rental within 60 days of voucher issuance or the voucher expires and they have to go through the entire application process again.

At the beginning of this year, the Housing Authority issued about 100 of these vouchers. Each of the voucher recipients then had to go about trying to find a place that would accept those vouchers. As far as I know, only a small handful of those who did receive vouchers were lucky enough to actually find a place to live and, subsequently get off of the streets. The majority of those who did get vouchers are still homeless.

There are a number of homeless couples who would have loved to get vouchers but simply didn’t try to apply for one. The reason: they aren’t married. Despite having been together long enough to be considered common law marriages, the Housing Authority doesn’t recognize these unions and will only provide vouchers that allow only one of them to be housed. As a result, these couples are left out in the cold.

It would be easy to say that if these couples have been together long enough to be considered common law unions that they should just go ahead and get married. But, it seems to me that to require them to do so just to receive help at getting housing would violate their freedom of choice.

The problem with the overall system is that it is still operating under obsolete procedures.

Homeless service providing agencies are still thinking of themselves as emergency shelters. Government agencies that provide "emergency relief" to the persons who are residentially disadvantaged are doing the same. For some odd reason, no one seems to recognize that the face of homelessness has changed dramatically over the last two or three decades.

Our nation’s homeless are version 2007, but the methodology being used to deal with the homeless is version 1950. It just doesn’t work.

Until the homeless assistance programs are given a major overhaul, the numbers of homeless will continue to increase. And the homeless will have no real opportunity for advance.

As for my two homeless friends – I am so overjoyed that there is a light at the end of their tunnel.

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