Despite numerous attempts to fix it, homelessness continues to affect citizens across the country. As taxes and housing prices skyrocket, low-income communities take the hardest hit. To understand how to prevent homelessness and fix government legislation, we must ask ourselves one simple question: what is being done to fix homelessness now?
History of the Problem:
Homelessness in the United States has continued to grow over the last 40 years, despite many efforts to reduce it. As with the policies in the 1980s, many welfare policies and homeless shelters have been created in hopes of reducing the amount of homeless. However, the rate of homelessness has continued to rise. It was up to 567,000 in December 2019 (“Homeless People in the U.S. 2007-2019” ). And as homelessness continued to rise, many Senate Democrats introduced the End Homelessness Act to create some change. This bill would appropriate $13.27 billion to fund federal housing and resources to help the homeless. This money would be spent to create permanent housing units in addition to vouchers. Furthermore, it would allow the creation of 25,000 units for low-income families (US House Committee on Financial Services). However, no action has been taken on this bill.
Although homelessness is an issue that has affected the United States for a long time and continues to become more widespread every year, there are a few ways to potentially fix the issue. Understanding now, that what has happened in the past did not work, most agencies and initiatives have become more creative in finding solutions. Some of these solutions include more available and affordable housing to help unhoused people get off the streets and become financially independent. For example, in my city, Oakland, CA, community cabins are being constructed to provide housing for the homeless as a short-term fix (“Oakland.Gov”).
In the long term, they hope to provide affordable housing for all and possibly pay rent for those that can not afford it. In the United States on a federal level, there is a large emphasis on preventing homelessness before it begins. (“United States Interagency Council on Homelessness”). Some of these prevention initiatives include reducing criminal justice involvement and building career paths for the formerly homeless. With these steps are some of the building blocks to end homelessness, the USIC hopes to end this recurring cycle. However, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many of these efforts being ineffective. Hopefully, in the future this pandemic will end, so we can address the communities in need of support and assistance.
What can You Do?
While there are many organizations to get involved with through my research I found The National Coalition for the Homeless which is a national organization whose mission is to prevent and end homelessness. There are several ways to get involved to solve this massive and daunting issue whether it is through donating time through volunteering, donating money, or getting involved with advocacy and education to solve this urgent need. What I like about the National Coalition for the Homeless is that it provides actionable steps and makes it easy to get involved. It is a network of people who are currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, activists and advocates, community-based and faith-based service providers, and others committed to a single mission: To prevent and end homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights protected.