Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lies, Lies, and More Lies

"What fucking stable housing? There is no stable housing! My housing isn't even stable." This was my friend Revel's response then I read her this line from today's New York Times, which reports a 30% decrease in chronic homelessness from 2005-2007.
Housing officials say the statistics, which are collected annually from more than 3,800 cities and counties, may reflect better data collection and some variation in the number of communities reporting. But officials also attribute much of the decline to a policy shift promoted by Congress and the administration that has focused federal and local resources on finding stable housing for homeless people suffering from drug addiction, mental illness or physical disabilities, long deemed the hardest to help in the homeless population.
This great victory is based on numbers such as this, which report that Seattle decreased chronic homelessness by 20% over 2006-2007. There isn't a single advocate in Seattle who believes this to be remotely true. While housing first works, everyone knows there isn't nearly enough. Here in Seattle, we're missing Ten Year Plan targets for housing production by half, and we're doing better than most.

This is about narrowed definitions, municipal strategies that criminalize poverty, and an eagerness to lie in the service of the illusion that things are basically OK, and that the most vulnerable are being taken care of.

I don't really fucking think so.

I was going to write s whole book on this, but my friend Israel saved me the trouble. The ED of Street Roots in Portland has a blog too, and he said it just as well as I can. Read his post, Lies, Lies, and More Lies.


Dr. Wes Browning said...

Everything about this reeks. They have only been doing coordinated one-night national counts since 2006! But they're comparing 2008 data to 2005 data!

The history of these annual reports is highly suspicious. The first came out in February 2007. The second came out a month late, March 2008. Now we have a third "annual" such report in July 2008, only 4 months after the last one, and 7 months early. Trying to get the jump on the next administration?

This 3rd report itself warns against making the comparison the Bush Administration is making. This quote is from page 16:

"A comparison of the 2007 estimates to previous counts warrants caution. According to CoC [Continuum of Care] application data from 2006 and 2007, the number of chronically homeless persons declined by about 32,000 (20 percent). However, as discussed, more than two-fifths of CoCs did not conduct a PIT [Point in Time] count of chronically homeless persons in 2006 but rather reported counts from their 2005 enumeration on their 2006 application. Thus, for many CoCs, the reported change in the number of chronically homeless persons is a two-year change rather than an annual change. If the analysis focuses only on CoCs that conducted real counts in 2006 and 2007, the decrease in the chronically homeless population on a single night is 11 percent."

It goes on in the next paragraph to talk about differing methods CoCs use to determine who is chronically homeless in their care, and concludes with, "HUD continues to provide technical assistance on how to structure the survey instruments." In other words HUD is working to alter the CoCs methods of counting to their own standards. So it is entirely possible that CoCs were counting as chronically homeless in 2005 people who would not be counted according to the methods HUD has been pushing. That alone could account for all the change in the numbers.

Bill said...

kudos to Wes and others who even have the wherewithal to read this crap issued by the Bushies. I have long reached the point of refusing to read anything they issue because they have so flagrantly made lies their cornerstone. It is necessary somebody read this crap and expose it, so thanks.

Sally said...

The trouble with this crap is that people who don't know better believe it and when you tell them it's not really true, they think you're paranoid. These aren't stupid people; they're well-meaning, fairly bright people who are simply being misled by what they normally read. How do you tell them the truth convincingly?

This is not a rhetorical question, and it really isn't a matter of the standard "education" blahblah. These people aren't asking for a 6-week course, or even an hour's lecture, or 15 minutes of data dumped on them. They need something that gets to them. It's a matter of messaging really instantaneously, while you're having a conversation with them. Tim, write something about this, please.