By Max R. Weller
The info is about a decade old, but I believe it’s still timely in view of what is happening here in Boulder, CO with Housing First at 1175 Lee Hill (a collaboration between Boulder Housing Partners and Boulder Shelter for the Homeless).
‘Poverty Versus Pathology’ See points copied below:
The “Chronic Homeless” Terminology Distorts the History, Causes, and Nature of Homelessness
- The term “chronic homeless” treats homelessness with the same language, and in the same fashion, as a medical condition or disease, rather than an experience caused fundamentally by poverty and lack of affordable housing.
- The term “chronically homeless” misrepresents the causes of homelessness for people who do have disabilities such as mental illness, addiction disorders or other physical disabilities.
- The initiative to end “chronic homelessness,” especially as articulated in policies to shift federal resources to certain kinds of targeted homeless assistance programs, assumes that there is a static population of people who are homeless with disabilities.
The Policies Accompanying the “Chronic Initiative” are Likely to Exacerbate, Rather than End, Homelessness
Preference in Awarding Federal Grants to Communities that Use Funds for “Chronically Homeless, Disabled People.”
- This directive disregards local needs, realities, and emerging trends, and is therefore in direct conflict with the stated goal of the Continuum of Care.
- By focusing scarce federal resources toward one sector of people who experience homelessness, the directive makes it more difficult for other vulnerable populations to access the resources needed to escape deep poverty and homelessness; ironically, it thus creates the pre-conditions for non-disabled people to develop disabilities and to be at future risk of homelessness.
- Rather than expand federal resources to meet the needs of all people experiencing homelessness, the directive pits vulnerable populations against each other in competition for scarce federal resources.
Required Set-aside for “Supportive Housing” for People with Disabilities who are Homeless
- The premise upon which the set-aside is based – that shifting resources to supportive housing for people with mental illness or addiction disorders will “end homelessness” for that population – is fundamentally flawed.
- The required set-aside has already forced numerous communities to cut funding for programs that serve families, children, and other non-disabled populations.
In sum, “chronic homelessness” is yet another stigmatizing label — a code word for those individuals who are deemed to merit attention and resources because they fit pre-conceived notions of homelessness, and because they enable policy makers to disconnect the issue of homelessness from the acute lack of affordable housing and poverty that underlie it. The “chronic homeless” initiative collapses a wide range of experiences of people who lack housing into a singular, monolithic category, creating a false hierarchy of need based on resource allotment, not the structural underpinnings of homelessness itself. Thus, what is truly “chronic” about homelessness is the lack of political will to address its root causes. For millions of Americans, this “chronic” political inaction results in homelessness — the most abject form of poverty and deprivation — in the land of plenty.
Questions and Answers About the “Chronic Homelessness Initiative” See points copied below:
What is the “Chronic Homelessness” Initiative?
What is the Federal Definition of “Chronic Homelessness?”
What is the Stated Rationale for the Chronic Homelessness Initiative?
Why is this Rationale, and the Policy Implications Drawn from it, Inappropriate and Misleading?
- The claim that “‘chronically homeless’ people represent 10% of all homeless people, and use up 50% of all homeless services” is a misrepresentation of the research findings.
- Targeting resources toward permanent supportive housing for the “chronically homeless,” as currently proposed, is unlikely to “free up” emergency resources for families or other populations.
- The “chronic homelessness initiative,” as currently envisioned, is incapable of “ending homelessness” for people with disabilities.
- The argument that “chronically homeless” people are “the most vulnerable” among people experiencing homelessness, and therefore deserving of greater attention and resources, is inappropriate.
What is the Impact of the Federal Mandate to Prioritize Chronic Homelessness on Local Communities?
- Communities are being forced to overlook the results of their own needs assessments in order to meet federal mandates to serve “chronically homeless” people. As a result, federal funding is not addressing the service gaps determined by communities.
What about Poverty?
The “chronic homelessness” initiative is beginning to redefine homelessness. Press releases, plans to end homelessness, and news articles are using the terms “chronic homelessness” and “homelessness” interchangeably, as though they were one and the same. No other kind of homelessness appears to exist — or at least to be worthy of discussion or action. In this collapsing of categories, all people experiencing homelessness are either pathologized or made invisible.
Proponents of the “chronic homelessness” initiative have attempted to deflect criticism of the lack of attention to “non-chronic” homelessness, especially the homelessness of families, by calling for “research and innovation” concerning those populations. Yet existing research has been ignored, and the involvement of service providers and public agencies with insight and knowledge about them has been minimized. Worse, the “chronic homelessness” initiative has diverted attention and energies from broader solutions to homelessness, most significantly the National Housing Trust Fund and mainstream housing assistance programs such as the Section 8 and Section 811 programs. Without greater support for these measures, as well as the soon-to-be-introduced Bringing America Home Act, people with and without disabilities will continue to experience homelessness. NCH urges service providers, advocates, public agencies, and elected officials to discard slogans, embrace solutions, and work to prevent and end homelessness for everyone who suffers it.
It will take a while for you to read all of the info expounding on the points copied above, but I believe that it’s time well spent by everyone concerned. See National Coalition for the Homeless.