Since President George W. Bush’s “Housing First” initiative began in the mid-2000s, homelessness in the U.S. has overall decreased. In 2009 and 2010, Obama continued the federal government’s efforts to end homelessness with the federally funded Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.
In 2007, there was about 650,000 homeless individuals in the US. As of the end of 2017, that total had dropped to only about 555,000 homeless individuals.
Although the total number of homeless individuals in the US has dropped by about 100,000, there have been drastic local trends within the homeless numbers. Homelessness seems to be shifting towards the West, mainly into big cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Many major cities choose not to provide homeless services in an effort to deter homeless people from moving to their cities.
Some public officials believe homeless services could strain local tax revenues and therefore choose not to provide them. But this lack of services has had disastrous effects.
Many cities choose to instead “ship” homeless people out of town. This practice puts a severe financial strain on smaller, poorer municipalities, who have more limited budgets.
Since major cities that have the funds and capability to provide these homeless services, it is up to the federal government to provide incentives.
According to Smith, “About 3.5 million Americans will experience homelessness at some point in time, but only about a half-million are homeless at any given time, and roughly 87,000 of these are chronically homeless. By some estimates, housing a homeless person and providing them with a caseworker to see to their needs costs about $10,000 a year. That means for less than a billion dollars a year, chronic homelessness could be ended in the U.S.”
Smith, like many Americans, believes there is no better way to use a tax dollar than on housing a homeless person.
Local and state governments simply do not have the funds or capabilities to end homelessness. The ball is now in the court of the federal government.
On July 25th, a Congressional Reception will be held at the Dirksen Senate Auditorium in Washington D.C. This event will allow New Jersey Residents who are working poor, below the poverty line and or impacted by homelessness to urge their elected officials in Washington to make No Cuts to Housing and remind them that Opportunity Starts at Home.