- “Something caused them to be homeless. If we don’t address the cause it’s just a waste of money.”
We must remember that while “something” may have caused every person to be homeless, most times that is not an “internal” or integral part of the person, but more likely it is something that happened to the person, including health problems, employment problems, violence (especially domestic), and other problems that members of our society have encountered that caused their homelessness.
Being homeless makes overcoming those external factors more difficult, not easier.
- “Long-term homeless have mental health, socialization and substance abuse issues that must be addressed first.”
Addressing your own mental health, socialization and substance abuse problems is much more difficult when living in a homeless shelter, an institutional setting or unsheltered situation. Having diminished self-worth, lack of rest, secure place for belongings, physical challenges of living or days on the street leaves little personal resources to address personal demons.
And while this may be true about “long-term” or chronic homeless, the majority of homeless people are not long-term, in any sense. Stable permanent housing for the chronic homeless is still more difficult to achieve from a shelter or institutional setting.
- “They just fall back into homelessness.”
The Housing First model, as an alternative to the more traditional “services first” approach, has a documented success rates of 90% or even higher for chronic homeless persons after one year.1 This is a testament to the fact that almost no one desires to be homeless, and will partner with service providers to improve their chances of success.
- “It’s too expensive. We just can’t give everyone a home.”
The Housing First model for addressing homelessness has been proven to cost taxpayers a fraction of the amount for the law enforcement-medical-shelter-transitional housing “services first” approach. Transitional housing programs, which keep persons homeless during the entire process and have a lower success rate, cost much more. Housing First, which is followed immediately by appropriate needed service and regular case management, is the most efficient and effective way to address homelessness.
Some studies report that as much as $10,000 per person per year is saved through a Housing First approach to homelessness.2
- “If they have a choice to get services, they will choose not to. Why wouldn’t they?”
Experience has shown that very, very few people would choose to be homeless over having permanent housing. And while some may not voluntarily choose to use services to address medical, behavioral or other issues immediately, experience has also shown that formerly homeless individuals do avail themselves of needed services promptly.
- “They don’t have the daily living skills to have an apartment.”
Even chronic homeless individuals have the living skills and experiences to quickly resume a regular lifestyle in permanent housing. Some skills, habits and coping mechanisms learned during longer periods of homelessness may take a short time to fall away, but the advantages of permanent housing vastly outweigh the difficulty of life on the street.
It is important to remember that most homeless persons were permanently housed in the recent past.
- “It’s just wrong. It goes against my values of hard work and earning your way.”
The vast majority of homeless persons are victims of events beyond their control. It is an important duty and measure of society to care for our neediest members. Food, housing, medical care are no longer privileges, but the minimum aspects of a life that we can be assured of receiving at times when we cannot provide for ourselves.
And who among us has not needed a “hand up” from time to time?
2. United States Interagency Council on Homelessness