I was homeless and you invited me in ...
Good news - especially about both the homeless and the effectiveness of the federal government - doesn't come along often enough, but here's some:
Despite a housing crisis, a great recession, rising income inequality, and elevated poverty, there is some good news among the most vulnerable segment of American society. America’s homeless population – an estimated 633,000 people – has declined in the last decade.
This seems incredible – perhaps literally, so. The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a leader in homelessness service and research, estimates a 17 percent decrease in total homelessness from 2005 to 2012. As a refresher: this covers a period when unemployment doubled (2007-2010) and foreclosure proceedings quadrupled (2005-2009).
President Bush is often remembered for the disasters that occurred on his watch - Iraq, Katrina, the economic crash, etc. But President Bush also had some notable successes that deserve to be celebrated - among them, a program that changed the way we help the homeless. And that program has made a huge and lasting difference:
And what about the presidents responsible for this feat? General anti-poverty measures – for example, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit -- have helped to raise post-tax income for the poorest families. But our last two presidents have made targeted efforts, as well. President George W. Bush’s "housing first" program helped reduce chronic homelessness by around 30 percent from 2005 to 2007. The "housing first" approach put emphasis on permanent housing for individuals before treatment for disability and addiction.
Lest we be complacent ...
As quietly as homelessness has fallen, so too it will go up quietly – unless there is major intervention. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that sequestration cuts from homelessness programs are set to expel 100,000 people from a range of housing and shelter programs this year. That’s nearly one sixth of the current total homeless population. Far from gently raising the homeless rate, it would undo a full decade of progress.