Homelessness in America is a growing problem. Today’s recession may force over 1.5 million into homelessness over the next two years, according to estimates by The National Alliance to End Homelessness. In a 2008 report, the U.S. Conference of Mayors cited a major increase in the number of homeless in 19 out of the 25 cities surveyed.
On average, cities reported a 12 percent increase of homelessness in America since 2007. Estimates of actual homelessness vary, depending on the methodology used to survey the homeless population. Numbers also vary substantially depending on whether a measurement is taken on a single night or is extrapolated to a given year. To date, estimates range between 2.3 and 3.5 million people who are homeless. According to a 2008 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report:
An estimated 671,888 people experienced homelessness in one night in January 2007. 58% of them were living in shelters and transitional housing and 42% were unsheltered.
The face of homelessness in America is changing.
Joining the discussion are panelists:
- Mike Rawlings – Appointed by the Mayor of Dallas as Dallas’ Homeless Czar
- Mike Faenza – President and CEO of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance
- Bill Thompson – Executive Director of the Union Gospel Mission
- Lynne Sipiora – Executive Director of the Samaritan Inn, McKinney – Collin County, TX
Although homelessness is a difficult number to measure definitively, it appears that more people—especially families—are sleeping in shelters, living in their cars, and taking up residence in tent communities. The definitions of homelessness can differ based on context, however, homelessness is generally defined as a person who “lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence.”
Many cities around the country have taken major strides in working with the homeless in new ways with great success. New Ways of Transitioning the Homeless focuses not so much on the root causes of homelessness, mental health and addictions, but ways to successfully transition them to permanent housing.
Homelessness in Affluent America
Lynne Sipiora’s situation in Collin County, TX, one of the most affluent counties in the nation, is somewhat shocking. The Samaritan Inn shelter has 130 beds. Ms. Sipiora states,
“At one time every head of household in the shelter had a college degree. The economy is causing episodic homelessness, people who have lost their job. People who at one time may have been volunteers in the shelter or donors, now find themselves clients of the Samaritan Inn.”
She points out that the face of the homelessness has changed due to the economy.
The city of Dallas, TX is setting an innovative pace for other U.S. cities with an aggressive 10 year strategic plan to end homelessness. The city has built a campus called The Bridge, a housing coalition that serves as a transition for those who can then go to permanent housing.
Mike Rawlings and Mike Faenza talk about the work of The Bridge and its revolutionary concept, which provides education, job counseling and health care under one roof. The Bridge pulls together a number of associations that collaborate on the concern, leveraging government and private funding. It is a true one-stop shopping concept – one location that handles severe persistent mental issues and focuses on the chronically homeless as well.
The Bridge was initially started with a $23 million bond election 4 years ago. The founders argued that this was better than the alternative – having people on the street.
As a result of The Bridge there has been a 59% decrease in those sleeping out of doors or abandoned buildings and a marked decrease in crime in the area.
Union Gospel Mission
Bill Thompson with Union Gospel Mission tells us their mission which focuses on the inner core of an individual and their spiritual side. They focus on the failure in a person’s life that may have gotten him or her to the place of being homeless. Union Gospel Mission introduces standards to its clients by which they are going to live the rest of their lives and gives a sound stable foundation. It addresses the causes of homelessness not its symptoms.
New Ways of Transitioning the Homeless paints a grim picture of what can happen to those who may not have a safety net. It also gives hope that people do care and cities are working hard to alleviate this growing concern.
Once again, thanks for joining us as we talk about things that matter… with people who care.
Niki Nicastro McCuistion
1822 – 05.23.2010