Should we rearrange the deck chairs or reallocate the lifeboats?

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Dr. Dennis P. Culhane has published a new study on homelessness. it is entitled “Rearranging the Deck Chairs or Reallocating the Lifeboats?: Homelessness Assistance and Its Alternatives.” According to the abstract, “this article uses research on homelessness to devise alternative forms of
emergency assistance that could reduce the prevalence and/or duration of episodes of
homelessness and much of the need for emergency shelter.” Dr. Culhane makes a strong case “that it would be both more efficient and more humane to reallocate resources currently devoted to shelters. We propose the development of community-based programs that instead would focus on helping those with housing emergencies to remain housed or to quickly return to housing, and be served by mainstream social welfare programs.”

To read the full study click here. To review other studies by Dr. Culhane click here.

The following is a summary of the this study.

Rearranging the Deck Chairs or Reallocating the Lifeboats?: Homelessness Assistance and Its Alternatives

Dennis P. Culhane, University of Pennsylvania
Stephen Metraux, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

Abstract

Problem: At present, homelessness in the United States is primarily addressed by providing emergency and transitional shelter facilities. These programs do not directly
address the causes of homelessness, and residents are exposed to victimization and
trauma during stays. We need an alternative that is more humane, as well as more costefficient and effective at achieving outcomes.

Purpose: This article uses research on homelessness to devise alternative forms of
emergency assistance that could reduce the prevalence and/or duration of episodes of
homelessness and much of the need for emergency shelter.

Methods: We review analyses of shelter utilization patterns to identify subgroups
of homeless single adults and families with minor children, and propose alternative program models aimed at the particular situations of each of these subgroups.

Results and conclusions: We argue that it would be both more efficient and more
humane to reallocate resources currently devoted to shelters. We propose the development of community-based programs that instead would focus on helping those with
housing emergencies to remain housed or to quickly return to housing, and be served
by mainstream social welfare programs.

We advocate providing shelter on a limited basis and reserving transitional housing for
individuals recently discharged from institutions.

Chronic homelessness should be addressed by permanent supportive housing.

Suggested Citation
Dennis P. Culhane and Stephen Metraux. “Rearranging the Deck Chairs or Reallocating the Lifeboats?: Homelessness Assistance and Its Alternatives” Journal of the American Planning Association 74.1 (2008): 111-121.