there was no better example of this than the recent naeh15 meeting in washington dc. i followed this conference as close as could on the timeline of #naeh15 and other social media outlets. what was noticeably absent however were any real headlines on the newsfeeds coming out of this meeting. the reason for this....there was no news. it was a rehash of the last few years when it comes to this conference. let me say this...there are some very good people who attend this conference and their ideals and their hearts are in the right place. their efforts and willingness to accept the guidance of a federal government program that is being almost forced upon them is not in line with their desires and heart.
the entire homeless agency network has become too willing to spend too much time <ten year plans>,
too willing to spend too much money <hundreds of millions of dollars> with very little result. advocacies and agencies have become too willing to accept ineffective programs while benefiting the homeless very little. the only thing we have succeeded in doing by following this course is greatly expand our homeless agencies and advocacies and ballooning the money we pour into homeless services while the homeless still sleep on the street and die every nite without a roof over their head.
if there was ever an issue that this country could and should put their wholehearted effort and expend their time attempting to solve it is homelessness. it should garner the cooperation and attention of every city official, every philanthropic organization and every church in every city and community in this country. men, women and children are walking the street because they have no shelter. children are hungry. men are dying. but yet we can't even agree on the very basic issues of homelessness or how to solve it, much less come to a common agreement on how to approach ending this blight on our country.
everyone has a stake in this issue in every city. every citizen of every community has something at risk when it comes to homelessness. if you aren't homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, then you are certainly at risk from feeling some of the impact of widespread homelessness in your city. either you feel or experience the plight of the homeless by the camps or gathering of the homeless in a particular area of your city, you will walk by the homeless as they try to survive another day or a child will die on your streets tonite as either a direct or indirect result of being homeless. while successful programs do help the homeless, they also help the community. but failed programs and lack of effort have the opposite effect. they harm the community as much as they harm the homeless. much needed resources and efforts are expended on these programs and hinder getting the relief to the homeless while costing the city...you...money. not only that it creates a very negative undertone and allows hesitancy toward helping the homeless to creep unchecked into the minds of the citizens of the community.
i am not going to bother going into to detail about the various programs currently blowing in the wind of homeless agencies, hud or advocacies. but there are more than sufficient indications and measurable lack of results that say what we've been doing to alleviate the plight of the homeless just isn't working and hasn't for decades. the numbers alone tell this story. homelessness has been on the rise for forty years with no real reduction despite hundreds of billions of dollars being spent. there is a total lack of honest communications about what is successful and what is not. there is a serious lack of integrity when we report that homeless is being reduced in a particular area or city. this lack of integrity springs from our reporting that homelessness has been greatly reduced in a city using a particular program while not bringing to light that the reduction has only been in a particular group of the homeless and not the overall population. a good example of that is salt lake city and phoenix reporting that free housing has greatly reduced the homeless population while leaving out the very basic fact that it has only worked in the chronic homeless sector of the population or chronically homeless veteran portion of the population while the general, overall homeless numbers continue to remain stable or grow. a very important fact that is often left out is the enormous amount of money that is spent to "save money".
no single entity or government organization can be the lead when it comes to ending homelessness. no agency, such as hud, can dictate what programs or guidelines can be used to attempt to reduce the homeless population. this should be painfully obvious by now by the hard nosed tactics hud and the va use to allocate funds to a city. they will do this only if you use their programs and guidelines and your compliance determines your funding. there has to be a balance of federal, state and most importantly local officials and organizations. only the local city officials and organizations should take the lead in their own city. this is because each city is unique with their own homeless population and their own unique homeless situation and set of problems associated with this. the goal should be the same...reducing and ending homelessness. the path to that goal should be unique and contain the most effective and cost efficient way to that goal. it also has to be balanced with compassion and a understanding that we are dealing with human beings, despite their faults and reasons for being homeless. this can only be done at the local level. finding the best way to utilize the resources, manpower and putting all the variables into the equation of ending homelessness can only be done by each city and community. there is no catch all cure.
the first step we should take is to end all the political maneuvering, the infighting and associated arguments that come with dealing with homeless problems within a city. we must end the trend of making homelessness a headline grabber, both by advocates and politicians. this accomplishes nothing. the second thing we must do is to remove hud and other federal agencies from the loop of decision making on local homeless problems. we must recruit and obtain the support of every part of the city, whether it be city officials, churches, philanthropic, business, social or individual. everyone has to do their fair share and take their portion of responsibility for helping to end homelessness, hunger and poverty in our city. we must all sit down, gather all the information we have from each other, decide what resources we have or more importantly what we don't have and decide what we can do on a sustained basis. we must decide what housing options and employment opportunities are available for our homeless. we must decide who cannot be employed and make tough choices about our addicted, homeless citizens.
we can make things better for the homeless and we can make some very serious progress toward ending homelessness. but it will take cooperation, understanding the issue and patience. it requires local people, making local choices about local homelessness.
see you around town
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