Shelters Stand in the Way of Ending Homelessness

Our journey to demonstrate, that homelessness could be prevented in communities, in concert with mainstream and community agencies, has been a hard road. In the 29 years since our founding, a massive and expensive shelter system, not a rehousing system, was created. Yet, ONLY housing ends homelessness.  Sadly, A generation or more has accepted shelter as part of life’s housing plan for them.
Shelter is a very bad investment; it becomes self confirming – it needs people to be homeless to keep going. It has decided that people are so flawed that they cannot handle housing; again, keeping people in shelter until they are ‘fixed’. By employing illusive standards one can scarcely imagine any of housed people could meet.
And yes, shelters did become the waiting room for subsidized housing placements; a homeless family was given priority for a long enough period of time that that belief remains vibrant, if inaccurate. Today, homeless families are most likely placed in the old high rises of hopelessness which escaped the wrecking ball.
At no point in these thirty years of developing shelters or uber shelters called “transitional housing”, has there be any proof that an individual or a family can be fixed to be “housing ready”. Yet the costs of this form of institutional life are huge in comparison with helping people find a place, pay upfront rent and build stability for themselves and their children.
It is not easy to find decent, affordable housing, but an individual or family with no established credentials for private market housing, can be assisted by a community partner to overcome reluctance of the private market and can help families to become “smart tenants”.
To further confuse matters, some insist a highly structured model called “supportive housing” is a universal answer. I don’t doubt that it can be appropriate for some folks, but the the door should be open to subsequent less structured forms of
When we renamed this organization to the Committee to END Homelessness, we endured a lot of grimaces, heard a lot of sarcasm, and understood people thought we were a bit naïve. But we believe if that is not the goal, the center of our existence, we were cheating those who suffer the nightmares and pain of homelessness.
Now we see very traditional mainstream homeless institutions incorporating those important words “ending homelessness” into their message; we hope they have more than paper intentions for the people who lives are so compromised in this society and whose miserable existence pays our rent and our mortgages.

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