there is a new head of the hud...the housing and urban development division of the federal government. it has been handed the job of coordinating the job of housing and dealing with the homeless on a national level. we also have a new head of the united states interagency council on the homeless. I suppose this is the premier agency when it comes to the coordination of the homeless agencies in the united states. with both these agencies, comes familiarity when it comes to developing and implementing a program to reduce homelessness nationwide. familiarity often breeds frustration and impatience when it comes to the local agencies and the public in general. both these agencies seem to have a very narrow focus on their ideas and agendas when it comes to programs for the homeless. both are locked into a vision of free housing for the homeless and housing first at any cost.. both these agencies are guilty of producing and repeating statements from various cities that we are somehow on the road to ending homelessness. three cities even proclaimed at some point that they had for all practical purposes ended homelessness. these two national agencies were quick to point out the high success rate, on a very small group of individuals when it came to giving free housing to chronically homeless veterans. they were quick to grab on and focus on something that the public would perceive as winning the campaign against homelessness that day while missing the larger picture. free housing became a buzzword, a campaign mantra and the feel good story of the month. even 60 minutes jumped in on the action and did a segment on free housing. they focused on Nashville Tennessee. while the story was compelling and you can't argue that it is a good thing to remove homeless people from the street and place them into housing, the story left out some very important information and didn't recognize that there was a much larger picture when speaking about housing the homeless.....even in Nashville where they did the segment.
the two new dept heads along with shows like 60 minutes and all the articles and proclamations about free housing being the answer to ending homelessness has indeed transformed many opinions and transformed the way we think about ending homelessness....for alot of people.....not me....but alot. i'm afraid there will be more free housing programs and more opinions changed before the understanding of free housing and the cold reality that it's only a recycled effort that has already failed numerous times hits home. people tend to forget that free housing, when introduced two or three decades ago was a radical approach to ending homelessness at that time. they seem to forget that spending enormous amounts of money with no solid plan to sustain it in the future was used so flippantly and carelessly that what once seemed a radical approach became the central movement in dealing with the homeless. the programs were taken to the extreme, eventually ran out of money, public support and congress and state governments defunded them due to lack of success or austerity. now there is a movement again to use free housing as the solution to ending homelessness. it is being pushed at all levels of government, all levels of homeless agencies and in the private non profit sector. they are now calling housing a fundamental right that all americans should be guaranteed in order to justify their agenda. while housing opportunity should be a fundamental right...it is not and should not be an absolute guarantee.
politicians, except in grand speeches stating how they are compassionate to the poor, the unemployed and the homeless have done little to aid the effort. the biggest legislative accomplishment they can bring forward is a homeless bill of rights. this in itself is ludicrous to think that the homeless need a separate bill of rights. we are protected by the same bill of rights as the rest of America. we need to learn to start integrating the homeless into society, not segregating them. we have enough groups attempting to segregate themselves and obtain some sort of special status or separate guarentees under the constitution or the law. I think as a homeless person i'll just decline that and utilize the same set of principles and the same set of laws that everyone else does. they work just fine when evoked.
urban revitalization has now moved to the forefront in alot of cities as we ease our way out of the recession and local leaders look for ways to improve their economies. along with that comes the problem of having to deal with the homeless, who in alot of local leaders views, are obstructing revitalization and inner city growth by their mere presence. unknowingly this revitalization effort by local governments might well have aided the homeless a great deal. by offering no viable alternative when moving the homeless out of an area, whether it be business or tourist, they have done quite abit to bring attention to the homeless and the plight they are facing. it has brought attention to the fact that the homeless are an outcast of society in many ways and often have no place to go....to just exist. with the advent of social media many have become aware of this and the situation the homeless often find themselves in when it comes to something as simple as trying to sleep and exist on a daily basis. so in many ways, the adversaries and accusers of the homeless have become an unknowing advocate and beneficiary.
i'm not afraid of the shift that is currently taking place. the homeless have survived it before and they'll survive it again. it won't have a drastic effect on them except for the wasted time and wasted resources that could be more effectively utilized to ease their struggle and find a permanent, sustainable solution. we need to reexamine our antiquated system and efforts and come together in a compassionate, common sense and fiscally responsible manner and find common ground among agencies, state governments, grassroots organizations, churches, local civic and governmental leaders, philanthropists and everyone else concerned with or involved with fighting homelessness. we do an acceptable job of housing the homeless for the night, but we leave them to their own devices during the day. we need to have a community based problem solving method that includes the very people we are trying to help. we need to be inclusive of the population we talk about but frequently exclude when it comes to having a conversation about what to do with the homeless. we need to involve the homeless themselves in finding a solution or formulating a plan for them.
this is America...the richest country and most wealthy in resources on this earth. there is no reason we can't find a workable solution to the problem of homelessness. it's time to stop using the excuse of homelessness being a multifaceted problem and and one that has layers of issues and treat it as it really is....a simple, horrible and unacceptable problem in this country and this community. it is one of , if not the most pressing social justice issues in America and should be treated like one going forward. it is time to shift our vision and shift our way of dealing with the homeless. but changing course only to find yourself on the same trajectory that you've already traveled can't be the path to success.
we owe it to the homeless to stop walking the same beaten path and begin a new road to ending homelessness. we need to find a new path that will bring us all home
see you around town