A new report by the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness emphasizes the importance of solving homelessness among families and children to prevent future cases of chronic homelessness. The report, entitled, “Are We Creating Chronic Homelessness?” examines current federal policy and its emphasis on chronically homeless individuals and impact on homeless families.
For the last ten years, government agencies and communities have been forced into flawed definitions and approaches that may actually increase instead of end chronic homelessness. According to HUD, to be chronically homeless means to have lived at least twelve consecutive months on the streets, in an emergency shelter, or a safe haven for the severely mentally ill. You can also be considered chronically homeless if, over the last three years, you had four instances of living on the streets, that cumulatively totaled twelve months.
These types of definitions, combined with strict limits on how communities can use federal homelessness funding, has narrowed the number of programs eligible for HUD funding. HUD has specifically eliminated funding for shelters, transitional housing, and programs that require accountability or employment training.
The result of this top-down driven policy is a redirecting of funding from homeless families and children to the chronically homeless. The result has been record levels of family homelessness in many cities, leading some officials to declare a state of emergency. Nationally, child homelessness has increased by fifteen percent since 2011.
The federal priority of chronic homelessness over family homelessness is a dangerous one.
“Targeting assistance to people who currently meet the definition of chronically homeless does nothing to prevent chronic homelessness from happening in the first place.”
The report points out that the national plan to end homelessness is fatally flawed by placing children and families at the end of the line. This lack of priority causes a continuous flow of homeless young people to join the ranks of the chronically homeless.
To read the full report, click here.