While the United States has made great progress in ending homelessness, there is concern that focusing specifically on ending veteran and chronically homeless leaves behind other homeless populations.
Families experiencing homeless and victims of domestic violence who are experiencing homelessness are two examples of populations who may need to wait longer for permanent housing in a system where other populations receive priority.
“Catherine left her husband the day he threatened to kill her and bury her body in the desert.
Ending 22 years of physical and emotional abuse, she packed her bags and moved out with her daughter, then 15.
For a while the two managed, though money was tight. After her daughter left for college, however, Catherine began to fall apart. For six months, she worked delivery services during the day and slept in her 1996 Oldsmobile most nights. When she could afford it, she would check into a motel for a shower and a bed.“
Almost a year ago, Catherine moved to a homeless shelter and then four months later, she moved into her own studio apartment.
“Catherine’s story is emblematic of the success of a federally-led “housing first” approach to homelessness that focuses on getting people off the street and into a stable housing situation as quickly as possible. Nationally, the strategy has helped cut homelessness among military veterans by nearly half and chronic homelessness by more than a fifth between 2010 and 2015.
But Catherine’s experience also exemplifies the challenges faced by those who are neither veterans nor chronically homeless – two populations that for the past few years have been the federal government’s focus.”
Catherine served in US Army Reserve but since she was never an active duty soldier, she does not qualify for services and housing from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. But she has still found success and permanent housing that she can afford.
“To those directly affected, what matters is that they have the services and resources they need within their reach. Catherine says that her new place has brought an unfamiliar but welcome freedom into her life. Since moving in last December, she has transferred the apartment’s lease to her name and pays her own rent.
And while she still suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, she has managed to turn the studio into a home, hanging up photos of her parents and children and sticking inspirational decals on her walls.”
‘It’s still a struggle,” Catherine says. ‘I still don’t like people knocking on my door. I’m afraid I’m going to get kicked out. I’m afraid it’s going to be my ex.’”