Remaining Silent

Posted: September 19, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Government, Homelessness, Housing, Politics

As I read news alert after news alert regarding homelessness, I can easily understand why so many folks have given up trying to make a difference. I can also understand why so many folks have given up trying to get their elected leaders to create a significant dent in reducing the numbers of homeless in their communities.  

Here’s a prime example.

Yesterday, while I was reading through my news alerts, I came across an article from The Associated Press. Its headline: In hard times, tent cities rise across the country.

Not exactly something that gives anyone any amount of confidence to believe that homelessness is something which can be remedied. In fact, most folks that I’ve spoken to seem to think that homelessness is on the rise. And since they can actually see more homeless people in their communities, that does indeed validate their suppositions.

Consider these two paragraphs from the Associated Press article,

From Seattle to Athens, Ga., homeless advocacy groups and city agencies are reporting the most visible rise in homeless encampments in a generation.

Nearly 61 percent of local and state homeless coalitions say they’ve experienced a rise in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, according to a report by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The group says the problem has worsened since the report’s release in April, with foreclosures mounting, gas and food prices rising and the job market tightening.

The AP article seems to negate HUD’s claim in their July 29, 2008 press release which stated,

Last year, nearly 32,000 fewer persons lived on the nation’s streets and in emergency shelters. That’s according to a new report released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that points to a 15 percent average yearly reduction in chronic homelessness since 2005.

When you consider that there will be 3.5 million folks who will experience homelessness this year, 32,000 is not even a drop in the bucket. But also, note the word "chronic" in HUD’s press release. HUD isn’t claiming an over reduction in homelessness, only a reduction in those persons who can be "classified" as being chronically homeless.

America’s chronic homeless are the smallest segment of the homeless population. In addition, there are quite a few folks who are automatically excluded by all of the so-called 10 year plans to end homelessness which are sprouting up all across the nation because they cannot be classified as being "chronically" homeless.

The best way I’ve seen chronic homelessness described comes from the National Coalition for the Homeless report, Questions and Answers About the" Chronic Homelessness Initiative,"

A "chronically homeless" person is defined as "an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more, or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years."

By definition, the "chronic homelessness" initiative excludes the following groups of people: children (with disabilities and without disabilities) who are homeless with their parents; parents (with disabilities and without disabilities) who are homeless and who have children with them; youth on their own with disabilities who have not been homeless long enough to fit the federal definition; youth on their own without disabilities; unaccompanied individuals with disabilities who have not been homeless long enough to fit the federal definition; unaccompanied individuals without disabilities; and unaccompanied individuals who are unwilling to be declared disabled.

All along I’ve been saying that as a result of the current national economic situation, along with the foreclosure crisis, that homelessness would increase. I’ve also made my views quite clear regarding my lack of belief that any of the numerous 10 year plans would have an impact at significantly reducing the numbers of homeless. Moreover, I’ve said that it would take a lot more than just providing a meal and a bed to help the nation’s homeless reintegrate back into the mainstream of society.

I don’t believe that there has been nothing of significance done to help our nation’s homeless because people don’t care. People do care. I know they do. It’s just that the no one is creating enough of a ruckus with our elected leaders to force them into doing the right thing. In fact, the only ones who are creating a ruckus are those who oppose creating affordable or transitional housing for the homeless.

The rest of us seem content to remain silent.

How sad.

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