[…] And in residential areas where new housing blocks were established, many residents were unhappy. They were worried that it would adversely affect their neighborhood.
There was, however, some work to be done on attitudes. For example, the unconditional housing was hard to accept by some people in NGOs which had previously been working with a different set of values.
Chronic housing shortages contribute to homelessness.
The model for dealing with the chronically homeless at that time, both here and in most places across the nation, was to get them “ready” for housing by guiding them through drug rehabilitation programs or mental-health counseling, or both. If and when they stopped drinking or doing drugs or acting crazy, they were given heavily subsidized housing on the condition that they stay clean and relatively sane. This model, sometimes called “linear residential treatment” or “continuum of care,” seemed to be a good idea, but it didn’t work very well because relatively few chronically homeless people ever completed the work required to become “ready,” and those who did often could not stay clean or stop having mental episodes, so they lost their apartments and became homeless again.
New housing needs to be found, or built, but with the market so tight, finding housing—any housing—is a huge challenge, one made worse when Gov. Jerry Brown slashed all $1.7 billion of the state’s redevelopment funds during the 2011 budget crisis.
What if we don’t make them pass any tests or fill out any forms? They aren’t any good at that stuff. Inability to pass tests and fill out forms was a large part of how they ended up homeless in the first place.
Still, the new paradigm was slow to catch on. Old practices are sometimes hard to give up, even when they don’t work. When Housing First was initially proposed in Salt Lake City, some homeless advocates thought the new model would be a disaster. Also, it would be hard to sell the ultra-conservative Utah Legislature on giving free homes to drug addicts and alcoholics. And the Legislature would have to back the idea because even though most of the funding for new construction would come from the federal government, the state would have to pick up the balance and find ways to plan, build, and manage the new units. And where are you going to put them? Not in my backyard.
Jennifer Friedenbach of the Coalition on Homelessness said the problem has always been the money, and said the city needs “a sustained revenue source to double the housing units for homeless people, and to do prevention to keep people in their homes and to not become homeless to begin with.”
As housing costs increase and incomes stagnate around the globe, homelessness is getting worse.
The number of homeless people in France increased by nearly 50% between 2001 and 2012 and in Germany, the total homeless population rose by 35% between 2012 and 2014.
In Australia, one in 20 are homeless.
Homelessness is also on the rise throughout Brazil’s biggest cities.
Earlier this month, 20,000 homeless residents of Sao Paulo demonstrated to demand more affordable housing. According to the Sao Paulo government, the number of people sleeping on the streets nearly doubled between 2000 and 2015.
About 60,000 homeless people still rely on the New York City municipal shelter system every night.
At the same time that housing affordability has worsened, government at every level has cut back on already-inadequate housing assistance for low-income people and has reduced investments in building and preserving affordable housing. Finally, the weakening of rent regulation laws, which help keep around half of all rental apartments in New York City affordable, has accelerated the loss of low-cost housing.
Homelessness is often perceived as a shameful personal failing or a natural consequence of severe mental illness, and that stigma has helped give rise to a series of complex requirements that homeless people are mandated to meet before being given housing.
Many people with mental health and substance use conditions lose access to housing because of poverty and disruption of personal relationships related to their disability, and about 27% of homeless people have serious mental illnesses.
“The Housing First program sustained an approximately 80% housing retention rate, a rate that presents a profound challenge to clinical assumptions held by many Continuum of Care supportive housing providers who regard the chronically homeless as ‘not housing ready.’
It is not uncommon that people start out only wanting housing and not services. Housing First accepts such people, rejected in the past, and provides the services they need to help them keep their housing, while offering to increase services as the need becomes apparent. Case managers meet people where and as they are and start building trust, which, in practice, works much better than insisting on providing services as a condition of providing housing.
The greatest ongoing difficulty encountered in Housing First programs is in maintaining enough vacant units to minimize waiting periods while guaranteeing ongoing availability of permanent housing to people already being served. This requires ongoing development of new housing, which in turn requires surmounting funding and zoning barriers.
Programs like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) should be expanded, which provide incentives for real estate developers to invest in housing that is accessible to low-income individuals.
Communities should review zoning, transportation, and related policies to ensure that low-income housing developed in inclusive and promotes economic mobility for individuals with mental health conditions.
It is also critical that public benefit design and administration, such as Social Security Insurance, reinforce Housing First approaches.
During transitions in housing or after a period of institutionalization, such as hospitalization or incarceration, public benefits should immediately consider the full costs of housing and avoid any “look back” that disadvantages Housing First.
Benefits administration should be coordinated with institutions to ensure that benefits immediately consider changes in living situation when an individual returns to the community.
It is imperative that mental health and substance use treatment providers expand their reach to include permanent supportive housing, whether as part of clinical community support outreach and ACT programs, or in partnership with housing providers. To accomplish this, federal, state and local funding policy must be changed.
Based on the current estimates of the unserved need, federal rental housing assistance should be quadrupled, and states and localities should recognize the imperative to develop a robust array of government-sponsored housing alternatives to respond to the nationwide epidemic of homelessness.
Part of this will also need to include concomitant increases in programs like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to ensure the availability of low-income housing options in different communities, and review of zoning, transportation, and other policies that promote inclusive development.
Job loss, long-term unemployment, lack of affordable housing options, and gentrification are all contributing factors to homelessness.
In San Francisco only 10 percent of the substantial funds spent on the homeless is focused on keeping people housed.
San Francisco now spends nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on homelessness each year. That works out to nearly $35,000 per homeless person, given the latest count. The problem is how the money is spent and how programs are coordinated.
I would characterize the current approach as scattershot (random and haphazard). The underlying causes of homelessness are so varied, and the homeless population so diverse, that a myriad of programs have emerged in an attempt to deal with the entire spectrum. San Francisco now has 400 separate contracts for services with over 70 different nonprofit community groups. These community organizations provide mental health services, addiction programs, employment training, emergency housing and more.
It is difficult to counter neighborhood fears that unsavory occupants will lead to lower property values and a deteriorating neighborhood.
The “Not In My Backyard” attitude toward housing people experiencing homelessness is not new, but the level of protest for the project is unprecedented, according to The Mercury News, a local San Jose newspaper.
Mental illness is prevalent among the homeless, and we have failed as a society to provide community mental health strategies after California, and then the nation, retreated from centrally funded treatment centers in the late 1960s through the early 1980s.
We incarcerate many and provide little to help those released to re-enter society. Many become homeless.
Drugs are prevalent, cheap and quickly destructive, often leading to homelessness and acute health problems.
The implication is that it is only the lack of shelter that makes someone homeless. But someone with mental illness, isolated in a tiny dwelling, is not likely to be able to live independently.
Were these small dwellings aggregated in a community then there is both the security and independence of a home, but also the support and services that can help them stay in that home.
I think it’s incorrect to think of Housing First as a permanent supportive housing model, or as a program at all for that matter.
When we think of Housing First as a program, it creates the illusion that Housing First is just one among many choices for responding to homelessness. This sets up a dynamic in which individual programs are pitted against one another. The discussion ends up being about whether we should choose this program or that program, and whether one program is right and another one wrong. It leads to an absurd debate about whether permanent housing or emergency shelters are the solution to homelessness, when both play important but completely different roles. Thinking about Housing First as a program leads to divisions, factions, and conflicts—none of which are helpful in the effort to end homelessness.
And it’s also true that providing permanent housing without services to people who have chronic health challenges may be irresponsible.
Again, this is not about choosing this program or that program, but looking at whether the system as a whole is effective.
There are certain things that Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing both are not. First of all, Housing First is NOT “housing only”. I would posit that in most instances getting people housed is relatively easy compared to the hard work of supporting them to stay housed.
Neither Housing First nor Rapid Re-Housing are a fad. They each are proven to be successful when practiced in a certain manner with a specific client group.
There is no such thing as a “sober” or “dry” Housing First or Rapid Re-Housing program. Participants may choose to abstain, but abstinence cannot be a pre-requisite for program participation.
Service providers have observed that while chronically homeless people represent only 20% of shelter users, they consume the largest share of health, social, and justice services. Malcom Gladwell’s “Million-Dollar Murray” eloquently illustrates how a combination of homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse can lead to repeated and costly interactions with multiple service systems. Available estimates of the economic costs that homeless people in Canada generate vary widely. In one study, combining administrative data from several systems for about 5000 homeless people with SMI in New York City, average annual service use costs were US$40,500 per person. Thus the overall costs of services can be considerable, suggesting the potential for significant cost offsets, at least among the highest-cost users.
Housing First does not require people experiencing homelessness to address all of their problems including behavioral health problems, or to graduate through a series of services programs before they can access housing. Housing First does not mandate participation in services either before obtaining housing or in order to retain housing.
Federal funding for affordable housing has dipped tremendously between 2009 – 2013. We are experiencing a rental housing crises.
The idea that I have to get my crap together before I can get a house has to be eliminated. Because there are legitimate barriers to getting housing.
— Mental health issues is one of those.
— Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol).
— Physical disabilities.
It wasn’t that long ago that finding a job to get out of poverty was pretty straightforward. Jobs were plentiful and you didn’t need a lot of education to find a good job and decent wages in construction, transportation, or the public sector. But the world has changed drastically since then. Family sustaining jobs now require education beyond high-school, public supports for the poor have been slashed, and the bottom half of Americans are losing earnings.
Housing doesn’t solve everything. when a homeless person receives the keys to his apartment, he begins asking where are the keys to my life, where are the keys to my future. so the hunger for meaningfulness (meaningful work) grows.
You have to start from their strengths and capabilities. Not from their failings. “Nobody has yet failed in the future”.. there are NO hopeless cases.