Pam Fessler at NPR is on fire with homeless stories. Two in the last week and relevant to what is happening in American cities. The criminalization of homeless people is a huge issue facing this country. In Hawaii, most of Florida and even Boise Idaho, the municipal government has given up trying to end homelessness and instead are house people in jails. These cities are spending precious resources to incarcerate people for purely innocent behavior. This is what makes the Justice Department filing so important. Also, the Department of Housing and Urban and Development are giving extra points for cities that are doing a better job with reducing criminalization and discharges.
One interesting note that was not in the story. The City of Denver is trying something novel to avoid paying for incarceration by taking out municipal bonds to pay for avoiding jail. These are similar to the Pay for Success program that Cleveland is undertaking. They will pay back the bonds based on the cost savings for each person enrolled who does not go to jail but instead stays in housing. This is a unique twist on social investment bonds and it all starts in January.
Fessler also did a story on Permanent Supportive Housing, and the wonderful new property being constructed in DC. The story appeared on the radio, but is better viewed online with the amazing picture of this new building. Los Angeles is just dipping their feet into the new permanent supportive housing projects. For a city as large as LA, they have only a small number of units in development. After a period of no housing being developed these small numbers (100,000 nationally over last five years) are a drop in the bucket compared to the need.
The problem is that we are paying for these units out of the money we had previously spent on shelters and only 20% of the population qualify. This is the reason that shelters are closing and more families are struggling with housing. These would be wonderful if it was all new money funding these projects. If the veterans have reduced homelessness by combining shelter and housing and supportive services why is HUD doing the opposite. These are beautiful units being developed, but they cannot be the only response to homelessness. If we do not have an option for everyone who shows up requesting help, we will see only increases.
Bringing Pets into the Shelters
Speaking of people who do not fit in the current shelter system: what do we with homeless people who show up with their pets. Huffington Post had an article about shelters that are now allowing pets. This is a group who are typically unwilling to kill or give up their "only friend" on the planet: their pets. The article talks about a new a new partnership between a pet store and Family Promise. We need this to start in Cleveland. We have such a hard time placing people with animals. It also shows the merits of having smaller shelters rather than the big facilities that Cleveland is stuck with at this point.
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