Group Oppose Chronic Designation

NCH Announces Opposition to” Chronic Homeless” Initiative

NCH Calls on Congress and the White House to Abandon Harmful Rhetoric and Policy Initiatives, Change Focus to Ending Homelessness for Everyone.

Washington, DC – The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) today announced its opposition to the “chronic homelessness” initiatives undertaken by the Administration and embodies in numerous Congressional mandates.

U. S Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez has stated that “ending chronic homelessness” is a primary goal of the Department’s homeless assistance programs. In addition, a variety of federal legislation now directs federal agencies to prioritize their efforts and target their resources toward the so-called “chronically homeless.”

Although the term “chronic homelessness” is rarely defined with any degree of specificity, it is generally used to characterize people who are homeless and who also have mental health or addiction disorders, and who are therefore more likely to experience homelessness for longer period of time. In a detailed paper released today, Poverty Vs. Pathology: What’s “Chronic” About Homelessness, NCH charged that the terminology distorts the history, causes, and nature of homelessness; that the policies that accompany the initiative pit vulnerable population against each other in competition for scarce federal resources; and that the “chronic homeless” initiative as a whole-terminology and policy – is short-sight and likely to exacerbate, rather than end, homelessness.

The paper notes that the “chronic homeless’ initiative is especially misguided at a time when the affordable housing gap is at a record high and the economic recession is forcing many people out of work and into homelessness. “People who are homeless and who have disabilities do not need yet another stigmatizing, pathologizing label. Homelessness is primarily an economic condition, not a medical condition,” said NCH Executive Director Donald Whitehead. Whitehead also criticized the policies that have accompanied the terminology: “the ‘chronic homeless’ initiative does nothing to prevent people with or without disabilities from becoming homelessness. It is fundamentally flawed as a strategy for ending homelessness.”

NCH called on Congress and the White House to abandon the terminology and its attendant misguided policies, ant to focus their efforts on the underlying causes of homelessness: lack of affordable housing, insufficient incomes, and inadequate health care. In particular, NCH urged Congress to work to enact the National Housing Trust Fund, legislation that would create 1.5 million units of housing for people with the lowest incomes.

Founded in 1982, NCH is a national advocacy network committed to ending homelessness.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March-April 2002 Cleveland, Ohio