For Homeless Families, Quick Exit From Shelters Is Only A Temporary Fix
NPR did a series of reports on homelessness last week. The first was on Rapid Rehousing and the second was regarding the work on ending veteran's homelessness. Rapid re-housing can be very helpful to give someone a place on a temporary basis when a person or family finds themselves homeless. The program is designed to be simple and temporary, however, the simplicity of the program can be its downfall. This program treats every homeless individual as a member of the same demographic with the same problems. Some cities flat out ignore other problems facing homeless people. Doing so with any group of people is a red flag, and with the homeless community, rapid re-housing has many major issues. Programs for the homeless need to be flexible to individuals. In Cleveland, only families have access to Rapid Rehousing. Some individuals cannot obtain a stable jobs in the time they are receiving the assistance, and sometimes, even if a person obtains a stable job, they cannot afford market rent without the assistance. Congress is not going to increase funding for homeless services anytime soon, so rapid rehousing must start implementing policies to be more successful.
The U.S. Declared War On Veteran Homelessness — And It Actually Could Win
Since President Obama took office, there has been a 300% increase in funding for homeless vets. By doing this, the number of homeless vets has decreased significantly in many cities. Some cities have even reached “functional zero” meaning that if a homeless veteran requests housing, they immediately receive it. Yet, the use of the “functional zero” terminology is a double edged sword. Officials use “functional zero” as though it is the same as ending homelessness, but it is not. If veteran homelessness, or homelessness in any capacity were to end, then funding for that would not be needed. To maintain a “functional zero” state of homelessness, funding must also be maintained. Steve Peck, president of U.S. Vets in Houston, was attempting to raise funds, when donors said that they thought homelessness was over. Well, it needs to be made clear that there is a difference between the eradication of homelessness and “functional zero.”
There was one story about New Orleans and the whole concept of "functional zero" among veterans. Another important aspect of this story was the importance of flexibility. Jim Zenner was a veteran of Iraq facing severe anger issues and depression from his time in the Service. So, when he found himself homeless with his son due to these circumstances, he would have been unable to gain shelter if it was not for one organization bending the rules for him. He later helped build and run a readjustment facility for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The importance of this piece of the story lies in the organization’s bending of the rules. Homelessness comes in many different forms with countless scenarios, and far too often, if someone does not meet the classifications of the prototypical homeless person, they lose out on resources. Resources and programs for the homeless must be flexible to the needs of individuals and groups, not merely one or the other.
by Dan the Intern