Friday, February 25, 2011

Why don't they ask homeless people?

Dan Ring has a story on Masslive today about the increase in homeless families sheltered in motels-- last year, 982 families were in motels; this year, it's 1027.  Numbers did drop for a while, but now they're higher than ever.

Gov. Patrick plans to spend $38 million to revamp the Emergency Assistance program which pays to house homeless families, with the focus on moving homeless families into apartments or "congregate housing."  Is that a euphemism for shelter, some of which the state only recently closed?

One way the state has tried to lower shelter numbers is by reducing the numbers of families that are eligible. One of those rules disqualifies a family for three years if the family was evicted from public housing for non-payment of rent.  One young woman we're working with left her apartment in public housing temporarily three years ago, to deal with a family emergency.  She was evicted after the "friend" who was supposed to take care of her apartment let rowdy people stay with her.  Since then, my young friend has been bouncing from place to place.  She is technically eligible for Emergency Assistance, but was denied, then appealed, and was denied again.  She has two charming young daughters who deserve better.

What the governor's plans fail to take into account-- in fact, it may be impossible to do so-- is the incredible economic instability of low-income families.  It's like a mini Dust Bowl.  The Great Recession has made it worse, but this instability has been happening since the 80's.  For every family in shelter, I'd estimate there are at least five more who are ineligible or who are hanging onto some untenable situation by the skin of their teeth-- overcrowded living situations, abusive partners, apartments with rats, mold and leaking plumbing.  A LOT more has to change before we can tackle that.

Who don't policymakers ask homeless people how to end homelessness?

Photo from Las Vegas City Life Print Friendly and PDF

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