Not surprising. Federal funding priorities in recent years have been targeted to the elimination of visible homelessness, and local efforts have largely followed the funding. Meanwhile, the sorts of supports that make the difference between mere poverty and homelessness — food stamps, housing assistance, childcare support, access to health care — have all lost ground.
The argument has often been made by the Bush Administration's US Interagency Council on Homelessness and their lap dogs at the National Alliance to End Homelessness that ending homelessness is much easier than ending poverty or solving the housing crisis.
This is true. But only if you're talking about visible homelessness. If you're at all concerned with the other, more invisible, ninety percent of homeless people who don't look like winos, then things get a little more complicated.
When a community commits to housing with services for those with the most severe addictions and mental illness, visible street homelessness will most certainly decrease. When this is combined with intensified policing of the poor, as is the case in nearly all Ten Year Plan cities, you can get those numbers down even further. The business of ending homelessness is good for business.
But this isn't ending homelessness. It's reducing the evidence of homelessness while poverty increases and affordable housing becomes more scarce. It's classic Bush administration perception-management smoke and mirrors.
The next load of shit coming down the pike from the USICH will be Ten Year Plans to End Family Homelessness. This promises to be a good deal trickier.
The first planning conference, sponsored by the NAEH will be hosted right here in Seattle this February. Philip fucking Mangano is already telling us how solving family homelessness will be all about the data.
The overall number of homeless people is up from a few years ago, Mangano said, but nobody can pinpoint an exact number of families because reporting requirements vary widely from state to state.
“Our desire would be to have many more states step up and track the data,” Mangano said. “Research and data, that’s what should drive the resources that we make available. Instead it’s often anecdote, conjecture and hearsay that does that.”
Here's a radical idea. Maybe solving family homelessness isn't so much about the data as it is the resources. Maybe if the feds weren't doing their best to kill public housing and routinely slashing other supports for low-income people, fewer families would be in such desperate situations.
Maybe, if we spent less time tracking data and engaging in gut-busting bureaucratic exercises to chase a few crumbs of federal funding, and more time demanding the government be less beholden to corporations and the wealthy and more concerned for the welfare of ordinary people, we'd see finally some real results.If it were up to me, one message would come through loud and clear this February. No Resources, No Plan. The feds don't get to put us through their hoops and look all concerned and active on the issue of family homelessness unless they start walking their talk. Otherwise, it's just more smoke and mirrors.