Hope For One Of Humanity’s Biggest Problems…
Recently, the United States Congress voted on the Homeless Assistance Act. This law helps agencies that help the homeless communicate better so they can better serve the homeless population and, indeed, get more people back into good living situations.
Homelessness is a big problem. In 2019, there were as many as 500,000 homeless people sleeping outside on any given night.
This is an increase over 2018, and the increase is almost completely due to an increase in California.
21,000 people became homeless in California alone last year.
Fortunately, the stats in the U.S. – other than California – are improving.
In 29 states, there was a decline in homelessness. There are far fewer homeless families and fewer homeless vets than there were in years past.
In fact, in some major cities – such as Columbus, OH and Houston, TX – these particular populations have been eliminated from the homeless almost entirely because there’s so much help available to them.
Houston in specific has such great strides that they were able to decrease homelessness by 54% over the last nine years, even though the city’s population has grown drastically.
They’ve done this by making communication between the agencies that help the homeless much easier and more effective.
This Approach Seems To Be Working
But even with all that good news, half a million people sleeping outside every night is not ok.
It’s a sad problem, and it’s especially unacceptable in a world where we have so much abundance and so many resources available at our fingertips.
You’ve probably struggled with how you can help the homeless yourself at one point or another.
Many people are reluctant to give food because they’re worried that the person will reject the offer – and this does happen sometimes.
Many people are skeptical about giving cash because they’re concerned that the person will either squander that money on drugs or alcohol, or that the person isn’t even actually homeless and they’re being taken for a ride by a professional panhandler – and that happens sometimes, too.
It’s also difficult to create legislature that will solve this problem. After all, some people want to be homeless and will refuse help. Others suffer from mental illness and resist treatment.
Still others just fell on hard times and can’t seem to pull themselves out of the downward spiral.
We can’t force people to live indoors, and we can’t force them to take medication. We can’t make housing magically free everywhere, and we can’t make people live in shelters that are potentially dirty, overcrowded, and dangerous…
And yet, we can’t let people live on the streets. It’s just not right.
With such a big and multifaceted problem…
How Do You Even Begin To Solve It?
My recent guest Gary Davidge is implementing a possible solution.
Gary is the manager of a drop in center for the homeless in Shoreditch, London. Every day, he works to help the homeless community.
Last year, his center served 6000 hot meals to over 500 people in need. In the past, he’s introduced abstinence groups and education programs, and in the next five years, he plans to launch specific programs for women and addiction recovery.
His next step is to make more private housing available to the people that need it most. Rather than adding people to a shelter, Gary hopes to give them individual apartments.
Once they’re in place, he will then offer them services to get them back on their feet.
From help with detoxing from drugs to providing education and job location information, he plans to take a one on one approach – starting with housing first.
By providing an independent home before addressing the medical, behavioral, and social problems, he hopes to foster an environment where the person begins to feel like a person again – instead of feeling shunned, unloved, and invisible.
It All Went Dry
This approach has been tried before – and it had a good initial run of success. In Utah, a housing-first approach was implemented in 2005 with great results. By 2015, the state’s homeless population dropped by 91%.
Unfortunately, funding for the project ran dry and their numbers began to rise again, but that ten year span is pretty good proof of concept.
And interestingly enough, a housing first model could actually end up saving the government money, as the chronically homeless are estimated to cost between $30,000 and $50,000 a year (per NPR).
Most of that money goes towards hospital visits and jail stints that could be avoided if people simply weren’t on the streets to begin with.
Now, from a societal perspective, all this sounds great.
But, according to Gary, from the perspective of someone who struggles with homelessness, this solution would be nothing short of a miracle.
Imagine – living on the street, possibly addicted to drugs, jobless, homeless, and hopeless. Then someone comes to you and offers a solution with no strings attached.
Instead of going to a shelter where everyone around you is hooked on drugs and down and out, you can have a space of your own to go and heal.
For that one person who’s going through it, this solution would be spectacular.
If your state or city is putting this kind of project on the ballot, you can help by voting to approve housing first solutions.
There are also some areas that have private organizations looking into housing first communities – these organizations can always use help in the form of volunteering and donations.
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored