Absurdity Of The Bureaucratic Mindset

Posted: October 22, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Government, Homelessness, Politics

Over the last several weeks I’ve written quite a few posts about all of the 10 year plans to end homelessness which have been popping up in cities all around the nation. I’ve been quite open regarding my belief that these plans will not end homelessness – not in ten years, not even in a hundred years. I’ve also been quite open with my views that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is doing nothing more than presenting the American public with a smoke screen to cover up their ineptitude in realistically addressing homelessness.  

This past July, HUD patted itself on the back and issued a press release making claims that the numbers of homeless were down 15 percent. The total reduction in homeless persons, according to the press release, was 32,000 from 2005 through 2007. Even the news media were patting HUD on the back with their headlines such as this one from USA Today on July 29, 2008: Drop in homeless count seen as "success story"

Considering that there will be 3.5 million persons who will have experienced homelessness this year, 32,000 fewer homeless, is not the major victory HUD has laid claims to. Nor does 32,000 represent a 15 percent reduction. In fact, if I’ve done my math correctly, a reduction of 32,000 fewer homeless out of three and a half million homeless persons is less than a 1 percent decrease.

So why is HUD making a claim of a 15 percent reduction in homelessness?

It all has to do the absurdity of the bureaucratic mindset.

HUD altered their method of counting homeless persons by redefining who can be classified as homeless. By doing so, they were able to exclude counting an entire host of persons from their "official" tally. As a result, it gave the appearance that there were fewer homeless persons. By using this lowered number, they were able to give the impression that the percentage of homeless who had been taken off the streets was higher than it would have been had they not changed their enumeration methods. Quite literally, HUD deliberately skewed the numbers to make it seem that headway was being made.

Additionally, those persons who HUD claims to have helped off of the streets are folks who are defined as "chronically homeless" – and, incidentally, it is only the chronically homeless which every 10 year plan nationwide are geared toward helping. They do nothing to assist any person who cannot be classified as chronically homeless, and therefore excludes roughly 90 percent of America’s homeless population.

That’s far from being a success story as far as I’m concerned.

All of that brings me to this news story I came across in yesterday’s USA Today: Homeless numbers "alarming"

Consider this quote,

"Everywhere I go, I hear there is an increase" in the need for housing aid, especially for families, says Philip Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates federal programs. He says the main causes are job losses and foreclosures.

Yet, less than 90 days ago in the article, Drop in homeless count seen as ‘success story,’ also in USA Today, were these words,

"This reduction is the largest documented decrease in homelessness in our nation’s history," says Philip Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates federal efforts. He says it shows that the increase in housing units for the long-term homeless, funded by HUD and communities, is working.

I have no choice but to point this out: there is either a decrease or there is an increase. You can’t have it both ways.

The National League of Cities polled numerous cities around the nation and found that there had been a 22 percent across the board increase in homelessness and requests for temporary and/or emergency shelter.

Even if I were to allow HUD the benefit of the doubt regarding their claims to have reduced homelessness by 15 percent, the 22 percent increase reported by cities polled, would indicate that there had been a net increase of homelessness by 7 percent.

The reality is this:

  • 3.5 million people will have experienced homelessness this year. Of those individuals, roughly 1.35 million of them will be children; and approximately half of those children will be under the age of 5.
  • About 400,000 American Veterans will have experienced homelessness this year.
  • Roughly 10 percent of the nation’s sheltered homeless persons are between the ages of 51 to 61.
  • About 23 percent of homeless persons have a mental illness.
  • Only about 37 percent of the nation’s homeless actually have an addiction disorder.
  • Only about 6 percent of America’s homeless are homeless by choice.

Not exactly a rosy picture is it?

I’m wondering when our nation’s elected leadership and bureaucrats are finally going to "get it" that not enough is being done to address homelessness; that there need to be realistic solutions for providing assistance to our homeless citizens, and not just skew the numbers to make themselves look good.

More that that, I’m wondering when we, the American public, are going to put our collective foot down and stop putting up with their bureaucratic nonsense.

  1. AnAmerican says:

    Amazing isn’t it? The public at large is fed information cloaked in inaccuracies regarding the true picture of life for many of our homeless citizens. All the sources I have talked with paint a very different picture of being homeless and that is that there are not the needed resources to assist our homeless. Why aren’t government services making approrpriate funding based on needs? Afterall, they certainly bailed out the financial sectors when they had needs!
    I think we are so used to being hoodwinked by government agencies that we have become immune to the misinformation…menwhile tonight there are families living without shelter. We all need to put our collective feet down and help where we can in our communities as well as doing our own part to help those in need.

  2. Kellen says:

    I’ve worked in the family dorm of a homeless shelter for more than 3 years now. I sit in meeting after meeting listening to bureaucrats, administrators and funders talking about increasing affordable housing and providing rapid rehousing programs for homeless families. Lack of housing is not the problem. Most of our families have been in affordable housing and lost it through their own dysfunction. What people do not seem to realize is that homeless families are not your average family who has had a setback. They do not end up homeless, get back to work and leave the shelter system. The majority of our shelter’s homeless families do not behave like middle class working families. Nor is their stay in a homeless shelter their first, or their last. The majority of them are cycling through the shelters over and over again. We set them up in affordable housing and provide supportive services to them, yet they still fail to maintain housing and return to the shelter – again.

    Instead of building more affordable housing we need to find out what prevents our families from being able to stay in affordable housing and keeps them coming back to the shelters. We need to find out what prevents them from functioning in most every viable way. Most of our homeless families have recent criminal histories, unpaid utility bills, numerous evictions and bad credit histories. They have problems functioning within the rules of most any system with which they engage. If we can identify the factors which contribute to these behaviors and address them with counseling, that would prevent them from returning over and over to the homeless shelter. And that would be a sensible to start to ending homelessness.

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