Someone asked me recently what I thought the solution to homelessness was. I didn’t even have to put on my thinking cap. Without skipping a beat I uttered one word: housing.
I realize that seems like an over simplification. But, in all reality, housing is the only effective way of – if not completely ending homelessness – then significantly reducing it.
Historically, this nation has never really attempted to remedy it – at least not that I’ve been able to discover.
Instead, the traditional approach has been to try and reduce the visible numbers of homeless; keeping them out of the eyesight of the general public. This has been done using a myriad of tactics, but primarily by providing them with a daily meal and temporary shelter.
When that has failed, local governments have used legislative measures to enact and adopt laws and ordinances to curtail the movements and activities of the homeless. These also have failed. The irony is that, despite the ineffectiveness of these traditional methods for "dealing" with homelessness, many communities still continue to use them.
However, within the 5 or 6 years, a number of cities and counties have begun using a "housing first" approach as a solution to homelessness.
This approach, known as the "America’s Road Home Agreement," is the basic foundation for the numerous "10-year plans to end homelessness" which are being developed throughout the nation.
According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) website,
"Twenty-two Mayors and County officials representing jurisdictional leadership on homelessness across the nation signed an unprecedented 12-point Statement of Principles and Actions to end chronic homelessness."
What I found telling is that point 6 in the agreement states this:
"Endorse housing solutions as our primary investment to end homelessness, recognizing that shelter and punitive responses are often expensive and ineffective in reducing numbers and restoring lives and affirm that permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing models offer our most disabled citizens the housing and services they need in a cost effective response."
In those U.S. cities that already have a 10-year plan which is in operation, there have been positive and – most importantly – reproducible results. This would seem to give an indication that a "housing first" approach is both a viable and effective solution to reducing homelessness. However, these 10-year plans do have what I consider to be a major shortcoming: they target only the chronically homeless – which represents a small segment of the nation’s overall homeless population.
Considering that these 10-year plans do show the potential to actually reduce homelessness, one would think that the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) would broaden the scope of effectiveness by allowing "non-chronically homeless" to benefit from the Housing First initiative as well. This would create the opportunity for the nation’s homeless families to get off the streets – and subsequently, reduce the number of children who are homeless.
Sadly, Philip Mangano, director of USICH doesn’t think allowing "non-chronic homeless" would be a good idea.
In June 2006, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, proposed a resolution to expand HUD’s definition of homelessness. The purpose was to provide a means under which homeless families could receive assistance through a 10-year plan. Mr. Mangano and the USICH lobbied against it.
A report by the National Policy and Advocacy Council on Homelessness stated:
"The resolution urged HUD to adopt a definition of homelessness that matches the reality of homelessness among families and youth, and is similar to definitions used by the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
ICH Director, Philip Mangano, argued against the resolution…"
This is not the first time I’ve questioned Mr. Mangano’s actions.
In October 2008, I wrote a post: Absurdity Of The Bureaucratic Mindset. In it I quoted Mr. Mangano as saying:
"Everywhere I go, I hear there is an increase in the need for housing aid, especially for families…"
When I take a look at the "big picture," I have to ask myself why Mr. Mangano and the USICH are so strongly opposed to expanding the operational scope of the Housing First initiative.
Then again – perhaps knowing why isn’t of any importance.
After all, knowing why will not change one ugly reality: as long as bureaucrats such as Mr. Mangano remain in positions of power, the majority of the nation’s homeless will be left out on the streets.
Mr. Mangano, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.