It Doesn’t Make Cents

Posted: June 16, 2008 in Government, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Money

This is the 399th post I’ve written.

I’m not sure why, but it’s a strange looking number to me: 399.

It’s hard for me to believe that come tomorrow when I write that post, it will number 400.

One thing I’ve worked diligently to do is present both side of homelessness. Whether I’ve succeeded or failed at that attempt – I don’t know. I guess it’s a matter of personal opinion, which is solely up to the reader.  

I’ve tried to provide logical reasons for my personal viewpoints. As a result, I’ve cited statistics, quoted news articles, emails, etcetera. I’ve provided links to the many resources and data that I’ve accumulated over the past 15 or 16 months – all in order to allow the reader to see for themselves that I’m not just pulling numbers out of thin air.

I’ve never insisted that my point of view is the correct one. I’ve never tried to indicate that all homeless people are victims – they aren’t. There are those homeless who are indeed the stereotypes of what so many consider to be "bums." On the other hand, not every homeless person is a victim of homelessness through their own fault. Some have found themselves homeless due to circumstances beyond their control.

I have pointed out that homeless support services agencies and organizations have not succeeded at effectively addressing homelessness in their communities. This is due to a lack of the types of assistance programs that are required to truly help this generation of homeless find a way back into the community. A meal and a bed just don’t cut it – yet, that is primarily the only types of services offered by the majority of homeless shelters.

On the other hand, I’ve also pointed out that part of the reason homeless support service organizations are often times not able to provide more than just a meal and a bed has to due with a lack of adequate funding. Despite the lack of funding however, I believe that there are things that these agencies could be doing right now to actually have an impact at reducing the numbers of homeless within their communities.

I’ve also pointed out that the approach that most local municipalities use to address homelessness, usually takes the form of adopting and enacting laws and ordinances which penalize the homeless – and in some instances actually penalize groups and organizations who seek to help their communities homeless. As far as I’m concerned, when a local government passes laws which punish those within their communities based on residential status, you have elected leaders who are severely stuck on stupid.

But local governments are the only ones who seem to be stuck on stupid. Federal lawmakers are just as "intellectually challenged" when it comes to addressing homelessness.

Several days ago I wrote a post titled, Head In The Sand.

In that post I quoted from the article, Record foreclosures strain social services, which I’d found on the Forbes magazine website.

Toward the end of that article were these four paragraphs,

The foreclosure crisis is increasing homelessness throughout the U.S., and the National Coalition for the Homeless is advocating that Congress should provide an infusion of $300 million in new allocations for the federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program to help communities deal with the problem.

In this current fiscal year, the program received $153 million, but the President’s budget request for fiscal 2009 proposes a $53 million reduction in the program to $100 million.

The coalition’s survey of state and local homeless coalitions found that 61 percent of respondents saw an increase in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began last year. That includes the broadest definition of homelessness – people who lost their home and went to live with family or friend, in emergency shelters and on the street.

Shelters and food pantries are being taxed throughout the country, and the foreclosure-to-homelessness problem is expected to continue into next year.

To many people, I’m sure that a $153 million to help the homeless may seem like a tremendous amount of money, but if you do the math you will see that it is grossly inadequate. Let me show you what I mean.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, How Many People Experience Homelessness?

"The best approximation is from a study done by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty which states that approximately 3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them children, are likely to experience homelessness in a given year."

If you take $153 million ($153,000,000) and divide it by the approximate number of 3.5 million homeless (3,500,000), you will arrive at $43.71.

So for this year, the Federal Government is spending a grand total of $43.71 per homeless person! That $43.71 is all that will be allocated per homeless person for the entire year.

Is it any wonder that there has been no significant reduction of homelessness in our nation?

Consider also, that the amount of homeless funding for next year will be reduced by $53 million to $100 million. This means, come next year, the Federal Government will be spending only $28.57 per homeless person.

That’s roughly what a family of four would spend for dinner at McDonald’s.

In the meanwhile if you visit the OpenSecrets website, which tracks the amount of election campaign funds raised by each of the individual Presidential hopefuls, and tally up the numbers you would come up with a total amount of $880,338,129 – over three-quarters of a billion dollars!

This tells me that the potential to provide ample funding to help this nation’s homeless does indeed exist.

But, it also tells me that we, as a society, seem unwilling to do the right thing.

It just doesn’t make cents… er… sense.

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