Monday, September 21, 2009

Top 10 List: Addressing Homelessness

Joel John Roberts, the CEO of PATH Partners in Los Angeles just published his top ten list of how the approach to addressing homelessness has changed in the five years that he's been blogging. It's a good list (not in any priority):
  • Permanent Supportive Housing (some also call this “Housing First”) has become the paramount solution to homelessness. But communities today are struggling with how to fund on an annual basis the support services needed for this housing.
  • Chronic homelessness has become a priority target population. But in the past couple of years, episodic homelessness (the newly homeless) has dramatically increased, resulting in local communities changing priorities.
  • More and more families have become homeless during a time when families were not considered part of the standard definition of chronic homelessness.
  • Hundreds and hundreds of cities across the country adopted “Ten Year Plans To End Homelessness.” But after five years of adoption—the halfway point for many cities—no one is confidently predicting that chronic homelessness will end by 2014.
  • Tent cities are becoming the new “shelters” of today. Very few local neighborhoods are allowing traditional homeless shelters to be built. So impromptu homeless “tent cities” are being set up instead.
  • Due to the declining economy, less and less resources are available to sustain an existing homeless care system and to invest in permanent affordable housing.
  • Homeless prevention trumps traditional homeless services. Pro-active prevention activities are being funded rather than reactive homeless services.
  • Social media is actually becoming as effective as traditional media. Facebook, blogs, and Twitter are certainly all the buzz. Who wants to buy stock in local newspapers? Social media is being used to educate and mobilize the community.
  • Government, alone, cannot resolve homelessness. It will take both a public and private partnership to end homelessness. That is why local governments are partnering with the business community, faith groups, and private service agencies.
  • Finally, I personally feel that community engagement is becoming an important piece to the solution of homelessness. In order to increase resources and overcome NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard), communities are going to have to unite together to overcome homelessness.
I might humbly add that homeless people with a Community Voice Mail number now have access to a constant flow of information (via broadcast voice messaging) sent to them from a local person who is in touch with a wide variety of community resources and events. And social service agencies trying to help end homelessness have a simple, effective tool to reach their "phoneless" clients when they need to tell them about a job or housing opportunity.

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