By now most American’s have probably come to terms with the reality that the U.S. economy is more likely to get worse before it gets better. Even President-Elect Obama has cautioned folks about expecting the economy to make a rebound anytime soon. Subsequently, anyone who is looking forward for a quick turn around will just have to keep looking forward.
The two questions which go through my mind about it all are:
- How many more American’s will become homeless?
- How long before we admit that we’re not doing enough to address this issue?
Yesterday, the National Alliance to End Homelessness issued a report stating that there had been a decrease in homelessness from 2005 through 2007. Although, it goes into some detail, it is – in my opinion – nothing more than a rehash of HUD’s official press release in July 2008. As a result I, for one, do not intend to applaud.
As the saying goes: That was then, this is now. As such, it is the "now" we need to be focusing on. And the "now" is far from being a "success story."
For the majority of homeless support services organizations and agencies, that the number of homeless may have been reduced back then does little or nothing to help them in the here and now.
Many of these organizations have seen their funding being cut back. All the while the numbers of folks seeking their assistance has risen dramatically – especially among families. So, to me it doesn’t make sense to cut funding to these agencies when there is a greater need of their services.
It’s for this reason that headlines, such as the one from MSNBC, Neighborhood Protests Proposed Homeless Shelter, are so disappointing to me.
The irony is that most folks agree that "something needs to be done about the homeless" in their community. Yet, no one seems to be willing to have a homeless shelter in their neighborhood. In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t recall ever having read an article which mentions folks embracing the idea of helping the homeless by allowing a shelter to be built in their neighborhood – although, they don’t seem to mind if it’s placed in someone else’s.
But is the building of additional homeless shelters actually a solution? Or, is it nothing more than a temporary fix?
I’ll admit there is definitely a need for additional shelter beds all across the nation. There are far too many American’s who are forced to sleep on the streets of our nation’s cities. Yet, would increasing the number of beds reduce the numbers of homeless? Personally, I do not believe they would.
The National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, Why Are People Homeless? makes this opening statement,
"Two trends are largely responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past 20-25 years: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty."
This being the case, it is reasonable to conclude that the only effective manner of reducing the homeless in any community is to get those folks back into permanent housing. At the very least, even transitional housing would have a better chance of reducing homelessness than simply building more homeless shelters.
Not only would it be a more effective manner of reducing homelessness, but it would be the most fiscally responsible solution as well. In addition, it would be the morally responsible approach to helping our nation’s homeless.
And, shouldn’t that be our goal: to be a morally responsible nation?