Chronic Homelessness Is Down, But…

Posted: April 11, 2009 in Bureauacracy, Family, Government, Homelessness, Housing, Politics

Since I first began reading and researching the many 10-year plans to end homelessness springing up throughout the nation, I’ve had serious doubts about their ability to actually end homelessness.

Folks, such U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Director, Philip Mangano, are quick to praise these plans. They seem to regard them as the next best thing since sliced bread. However, they aren’t as quick to point out their biggest shortcomings. These plans target assistance for only a small segment of the nations’ homeless: those who are classified as "chronically homeless."  

Of the 300 or so plans which have been drafted thus far, only a handful of them actually use the word "chronic" in their main titles. The majority of them seem to guardedly omit the word.

I have a problem with the omission of such an important word. It misleads the general public into believing that these plans will provide assistance to the overall homeless population. This creates a potential for folks to think that their donations to local homeless support services may be unnecessary.

Admittedly, these plans do have a high success rate: about 85 percent. On the other hand, what they don’t have is a chance at in fact ending homelessness – at least not for the 80 percent of non-chronically homeless.

Among the non-chronic homeless are families.

While the numbers of chronic homeless may have been reduced, the numbers of non-chronic has increased. Consequently, the "successes" have been cancelled out – and in some instances have even created a "deficit"

For example –

In Sacramento, California, the number of chronically homeless was reduced by 34.8 percent between 2007 and 2009.

A news article from News-10 (ABC), Number of Chronically Homeless Down 1/3, Says Sacramento County, states

"The county says in 2009 there are 468 individuals who are chronically homeless, compared to 718 in 2007.

The county attributed the decline in chronic homeless to the placement of 320 chronically homeless into supportive, permanent housing."

The article, however, does point out that there has been an increase of "other homeless."

Sacramento isn’t alone when it comes to an increase of the "other homeless."

According to an article in the Washington Post, the nation’s capital has seen an increase in family homelessness of 15 percent.

As of January 30, there were "… 5,263 people in families, including children… up from 4,566 a year earlier."

The article also stated,

"The number of homeless families is rising nationwide. Advocates for the homeless in Los Angeles, for instance, recently counted twice as many families in shelters as last year."

To me, this is a clear case of "one step forward and two steps back."

It is also a clear indication that these 10-year plans should be amended to include assistance for the non-chronic homeless as well.

It does this nation no good if we reduce the smallest segment of homeless, while the largest segment continues to grow.

The brutal reality is that unless bureaucrats like Mr. Mangano – as well as our nation’s political leaders – are willing to expand the operational scope of the nation’s 10-year plans, the overall numbers of homeless will continue to increase… and with it, an increase of human suffering.

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