By Daryl Dawkins
Homeless Numbers Going Down! That is the headline in many newspapers across the nation, but the shelter systems are consistently full; a minimum of 375 men on a regular basis at the men’s shelter in Cleveland. Furthermore, many people go into overflow.
While the Housing First program is making a difference in effectively housing the chronically homeless, the number of new people entering a state of homelessness keeps climbing! More young people aging out of foster care with no housing plan continue to add to a population that includes women, children, the unemployed, and/or the underemployed unable to pay rent.
I have seen no decline in the number of homeless. In fact, I have seen an increase in the number of young men, ages 18-25. Many have anger issues and no family ties. The younger ones are being housed at this time because of the 100 day initiative for homeless youth, but there is a mental health barrier that exists in that population. Many have trust issues and we witness issues with severe mental illness and psychosis in their age group. They have a lack of social and employable skills, also making housing these young men a challenge. A lot of them come from the foster care systems and some come from single parent homes. They no longer want to abide by the rules set during youth. Some of these young men pose a danger in the home and their mothers force them out. As a result, they end up in the shelter system.
I have also seen an increase in elderly gentlemen, aged 55+. There is a large percentage with addiction issues who have severed or fragmented their family ties. These older men are going to be difficult to house because of prior evictions, heavy addictions, and felonies. These issues disqualify them from obtaining subsidized housing.
Another one of the barriers to housing that creates a unique problem is housing sex offenders. We are slowly getting other people into housing and finding no subsidized housing available for the sex offender population. This leaves a growing number of men who have committed sex offenses without the ability to find suitable housing. As this bottleneck grows we are going to have a population of men who have trouble finding and keeping employment. Without a suitable living wage, they are also unable to find and keep housing. These men will, therefore, always be in the system.
Overflow has been a consistent challenge that includes women and children as the number of homeless families increase. There is currently a bus that takes the overflow to an outside facility to sleep for the night. They can say that the homeless numbers are going down because of the success in housing those who are designated “chronically homeless.” However, the truth is that the numbers are being stabilized again by the newly homeless.
In my opinion the number of homeless is easy to estimate and harder to realize, due to the transient nature of many of the homeless in our country. They are saying the number of homeless in a lot of the cities went down, but just as many are saying that the same number went up.
Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March 2017 Issue 24 #1