Ending homelessness in the U.S. within ten years is a goal within
reach, says the National
Alliance to End Homelessness, which held its annual conference in
Washington, D.C., from July
12 to July 15, 2000.
At the conference, the alliance's board of directors outlined a
ten-year plan that it believes
will change the dynamic of homelessness. The four-step plan will
not stop people from losing
their housing, but it will alter the way that housing crises are
Here are the four steps outlined by the alliance's board of
- Plan for outcomes
According to new data, U.S. cities could help homeless
individuals more effectively by
changing the mix of assistance they provide. First, they can
collect better data at the local
level. Next, they can create a planning process that focuses
on ending homelessness, and
then bring homeless assistance-providers, mainstream state and
local agencies, and
organizations whose clients are homeless to the table.
- Close the "front door"
The homeless assistance system ends homelessness for thousands
of people every day,
but they are quickly replaced by others. People who become
homeless are almost
always clients of public aid programs, such as the mental
health, public health, welfare
and veterans systems, as well as the criminal justice, the
child protective service systems,
and foster care. The more effective the homeless assistance
system is in caring for
people, the less these other systems are called upon to help.
We need to integrate all
these services to work together and provide maximum aid.
- Open the "back door"
While most people who become homeless enter and exit
homelessness quickly, some
people spend more time in the system. Through a "housing
first" approach, people should
be helped to exit homelessness as quickly as possible. For the
chronically homeless, this
means "permanent supportive housing," or housing with
services. This solution will save
money as it reduces the use of other public systems.
For families and less disabled single adults, it means moving
people quickly into
permanent housing and linking them with services. People
should not spend years in
homeless systems, either in shelters or transitional housing.
- Build the infrastructure
Systems can be changed to prevent homelessness and shorten the
homelessness. But until the affordable housing supply is
increased, the poor become able
to afford food, shelter, health care and other necessities,
and disadvantaged people
receive the services they need, people will continue to be
threatened with instability.
Marlon Valdivia manages APLA' s Residential Services and is a
member of the
Board of Directors of the National AIDS Housing Coalition. He can
be reached by calling
(323) 993-1435 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.