victory! scream the headlines as cities, advocates and agencies declare we have found the next grand answer to homelessness. the end of homelessness! shouts some cities who managed to reduce a segment of their homeless population while the larger problem spirals upward and out of control. progress! declares various housing program advocates while the homeless continue to die on the street from the cold, continue to be killed by police officers caught in a situation they were not trained to deal with or children remain in cars, abandoned houses or other places no child should have to see let alone live in with their tired, weary mother. the fact that no significant progress has been made, no answer is on the horizon and that homeless agencies and advocates are so anxious to declare progress or success that the real problem of homelessness is lost in their self proclaimed basking of false praise.
one city wildly claims their housing programs are a rousing success and they just need a few more years, a few hundred million more dollars and your continued support and they will be ending homelessness....soon...well...some time....some year...when the unicorns come home from the pasture and we assume the country has finally awakened to the problems of the homeless and all will turn out well. for the 13 kids who die homeless and alone on our streets every nite, the men who freeze to death on the streets in the winter, the women who are raped, murdered or die a homeless death every nite....every single nite.....all is not well. as someone who sees the homeless every day, reads about the homeless every day, worries about the homeless every day and is aware of the homeless every day...all is not well. for every false positive story, for every answer to homelessness, for every city that didn't end homelessness of any sort, for every wasteful, neglectful, poorly thought out program that begins and ends...there are more homeless, more suffering and more needless, senseless deaths of our homeless citizens. there is no denying it. now that we have accepted the fact that to get the real bottom line number of homeless people, particularly homeless children, in this country that we are going to have to expand the definition of what homelessness is, there is no getting around the enormity of the problem. there is no denying that we haven't begun to reduce or even scratch the surface of ending homelessness. we're way beyond a matter of perception now. we're into the realm of cold, blunt, brutal reality. we're into the realm of being forced to face our own broken promises, our own false declarations of success and our own fallacies of programs that have been declared a success while accomplishing very little for the homeless. the recession is over. unemployment is down. local economies are improving. it's judgement day. we have nothing to blame for the lack of success in fighting homelessness except our own miserable failures.
the success and vibrance of a city and it's homeless population are inextricably linked. neighborhoods, business districts, parks, recreational areas entertainment districts and the homeless are joined at the hip. as one goes....so goes the other. fair or not, how a city handles and deals with its homeless population effects every area of the city. you cannot have a nice, clean and vibrant city while your homeless are ignored or pushed out of sight. you cannot make plans for your city while excluding the homeless from those plans. every statistic that a city bases its success or failure upon is somehow linked to the homeless population and how successfully or unsuccessfully you deal and assist that population. just as crime statistics, jobs statistics, revenue statistics, growth statistics and demographics effect a city...so do the homeless statistics. we have spent nearly forty years attempting program after program and then repeating those programs in a failed effort to reduce and end homelessness. we should be ashamed of our lack of success and the failure on our part to admit we have failed. we should be ashamed for being less than honest about not only our failures but also about our success. we should be ashamed that yet another generation has been introduced to the ugly reality of homelessness. we should all be ashamed.
winter is almost over. spring is around the bend. we have almost a year before the cold winds of winter begin to blow again. we shouldn't waste it. it's important we do it differently this time. we have no more excuses. our successes and failures can only rest upon our own doorsteps now. the issues of drug abuse, joblessness, poor parenting, lack of education, domestic violence, abandonment and mental illness are daunting. but they also didn't arise overnite. we didn't suddenly wake one morning and find that over 2 million homeless people had suddenly appeared in reverse rapture of some sort. while we were busy fighting for money and attention, while we are struggling to outmaneuver other homeless agencies for the next headline, the homeless population kept growing...and growing...and growing. so while the entire country is now aware of homelessness, while we finally have lawmakers and policy makers attention, let's finally commit to doing our part. let's finally translate that attention into some quantitative and measurable results. let's stop reporting there is no longer a problem and admit that we are overwhelmed with the problem and need every level of support we can possibly obtain. let's finally admit we have been wrong.
while doing this, we can also take the years of experience we have in fighting homelessness and take the best of all the programs we have tried thus far and combine them into an effective effort. we can do it quietly, steadily and forcefully. we need to move forward, homeless person by homeless person and end this black spot on our country. we can use this opportunity and change the narrative from promises of ending homelessness to the simple statement that today...and every day forward...we will house as many homeless as we possibly can with the money and resources we have available. we will continue to do this tomorrow and the next day and the next. we will continue to move forward in this manner until we do indeed make significant progress toward that goal we all want to achieve. we should continue to strive for that morning when we awaken and not one single person died homeless the nite before.
it's important, now more than ever, that we focus on that simple yet important goal. noone died last nite without a home.
see you around town