for years the federal government has spent billions of dollars fighting homelessness and more often than not cities have either tried, are still trying or about to embark on a program that's called housing first in todays homeless advocacy world. it's been called several names over the years but the outcome has always been consistent. with systematic evaluation it's very easy to see that the program invariably has failed by all measures and has not reduced homelessness. even the cities such as salt lake city, Utah that invested state and federal money very heavily in this idea and then stated that it was a rousing success, in actuality did very little to solve the homeless problem in their respective cities. from Nashville to salt lake city to phoenix, the much touted success of housing first proved to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors and the success was nothing more than manipulation of numbers. it just doesn't work. neither have many of the other approaches homeless agencies have put into place over the last several years. it isn't a question of money, we spend more than enough on homeless programs to house every homeless person in the united states on a yearly basis. it's simply we don't spend it efficiently, we don't use common sense in appropriating funds for programs and we continue to use the same basic approach under different names over and over and over again.
we have a new administration in Washington now. we have a new senate, congress and a new head of hud. things are about to change. I think we are entering a period of greater opportunity to have a real effect on homelessness with ben carson now heading hud. I think the gop congress and senate, despite their reputation for waging war on the homeless will present a more common sense approach when it comes to funding programs for the battle to save our homeless and those struggling daily with severe poverty. simply tossing more money into the problem doesn't and never has had much of an effect. it's time we try a different approach and look at the individuals instead of the collective problem of homelessness. housing first advocates have always used the worn out philosophy of how much money it saves by simply giving a homeless person a home. they state that it costs around 45 thousand dollars for a homeless person to live on the street versus around 15 thousand to just give them a home. i'm not even going to get into the argument over where the 45k figure came from or where the supposed 30k annually they saved on each homeless person went. it's too ridiculous at this point for me to even try to put forth an argument against those numbers. any person with common sense can figure that out for themselves. but i will say what will save money is to get the homeless person off the street, into housing and then deal with what caused their homelessness initially. finding the homeless person employment, helping them to become self sufficient and if you must use free housing first, having an exit strategy and have them transition out. that...is the real success and that should be the true measure of housing programs. it's not how many you housed that stayed, it's how many transitioned out into self sufficiency. we have to begin a new dialogue when it comes to homelessness and the homeless and we have to fill it with honesty, real facts and what works for people instead of continually chasing the unicorn effect of free housing with no strings. instead of looking at what doesn't work we need to begin to look at what works. instead of looking at what causes homelessness and why the individual is still homeless despite our best efforts, we need to look at those who have beaten homelessness and moved on and examine how they did it and why they did it. i think we'd get a better understanding of what works and why by looking at those people than we ever will continually examining those who are still mire in homelessness by their own choosing.
we do not need to abandon our homeless brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and children who continue to struggle with addictions and homelessness. but in order to "save and rescue" them we need to turn our attention in a new direction. we need to stop accepting failure. we need to stop accepting excuses from ineffective homeless agencies. we need to accept the fact that only being honest about the real causes of homelessness and being honest about the real causes that individuals are homeless will bring about our common goal of bringing homelessness to a functional zero level. we need to continue to exercise compassion for the homeless and try to give them the relief to survive from day to day, week to week. month to month and year to year if necessary. we need to continue to hold that life line within their reach so when the day comes they are ready to grab onto it, it is there and we are at the other end to pull them up and out of the quagmyre they are caught in.
it is a new era in this country. it is a new era in washington. agree or disagree, times are changing. our economic and social focus is changing. hopefully we will enter into a new era in our battle against homelessness. hopefully all of us who are engaged in helping the homeless will collectively say what america said this past election. enough is enough. we should make it our goal to never introduce another generation to widespread homelessness and never allow another child to be hungry or worry about where they are going to spend the next night. let's end this blight on our country and give our homeless what they need. what they need is us to give our best. we haven't done that in decades.
see you around town