The Partnership for the Homeless

Invest in the future

As I reflect on the people I’ve met during my tenure as President of the Partnership, I’m reminded how much preferable it is, by every indicator, to invest preemptively in a society that offers genuine opportunities for each of us to live in economic security and personal wellness, and to never know the tragedy of living without a home.

But homelessness has surely become entrenched in our city.  What was thought of as a temporary crisis in the early 1980s is now a deep-rooted social problem that unfortunately has become accepted as an inevitable part of our urban landscape.

Each night, 60,000 people go to sleep in city shelters. More than 40% are children. Most troubling, the number of homeless people in our city is more than three times the number of homeless people when the Partnership was first established.

Why?

Social policy on homelessness has foundered. We’re trapped in the “quick fix” or a “putting up the numbers” mentality.  We focus on programs that may have the luster of superficial accomplishments, nothing happens to break generational patterns of homelessness.

This short-sighted approach has failed because it disregards the many interwoven factors that put people at risk of homelessness. What’s more, it cannot incorporate strategies that test new, creative interventions that might prove effective in the long-term.

 So how do we begin to create real change?

 As a start, we must be willing to experiment with a paradigm shift that looks to new models of practice that tackle the root causes of the problem.

 And while we still must be committed to addressing immediate crises, to achieve success we must be willing to look at new approaches that -

  • tackle homelessness with social science rigor, using our services to incubate new approaches, establish best practices, measure the impact of strategies not only on individuals but on communities, and
  • build campaigns that stimulate the replication of scalable, ground-tested programs, in order to influence or change policies and practices across the city and beyond.

The incalculable human cost of homelessness demands nothing less from us. The enormous dollars spent on stop-gap measures solve nothing and only continue to be a huge drain on the public fisc.