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Homelessness in the United States has fallen almost 13 percent since 2009, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. But not every city and state has seen the same results. Homelessness has increased in New York, Washington, DC and Wichita. Meanwhile, Utah and Massachusetts have successfully reduced chronic homelessness through a strategy known as “Housing First.” In this hour, we’ll talk to governors, former mayors, experts, and formerly homeless people about what works and why.
- Governor John Hickenlooper is the Democratic governor of Colorado and the former mayor of Denver.
- Governor Charlie Baker is the Republican governor of Massachusetts.
- Philip Mangano is the president of the American Round Table to Abolish Homelessness. He is the former executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
- Tod Lipka is the CEO of Step Up On Second, Inc., a non-profit organization in Santa Monica, California.
- Sunnie Walker had been homeless since she was seven years old. She has been in her own permanent housing for the last year.
- Greg Devereaux is the CEO of San Bernardino County.
- Heidi Wegleitner is a housing rights attorney and represents District 2 on the Dane County Board of Supervisors.
Four Innovative Attempts To Solve Homelessness
No city or state has found a guaranteed fix for homelessness, but there have been some successful programs and innovative ideas. Including:
- The Housing First strategy has drawn significant attention for its positive results. As the name implies, this approach puts giving the homeless housing before focusing on employment, sobriety, or other concerns.
- In San Francisco, the Navigation Center is less strict about who it takes in. It also prioritizes open space and allows people to bring their partners, pets, and personal belongings. As Marketplace reported: “Shelters are a Band-Aid, not a solution, [Center director Julie] Leadbetter says. They are often dorms crammed with beds. There’s no place to put your stuff, and they have a curfew for when you can come in and when you must leave during the day. Sexes are separated to protect women from rape. These conditions keep people out, she says.”
- Another program in San Francisco, Project Homeless Connect (PHC) aims to eliminate costly and time-consuming crosstown travel for homeless individuals seeking services. PHC brings multiple service providers — doctors, the DMV, health insurance providers etc. — under one roof for an all-day fair.
- In Hawaii, searches for solutions to a deficit of affordable housing inspired architects to put together a plan to convert buses into shelters. While not a permanent solution, it’s a unique step to alleviate chronic homelessness.
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