Prevention Through Partnership to End Homelessness
When I worked as an advocate and shelter organizer in 2003, there were 39,000 people in the NYC homeless shelters every night, a record high at the time and a number that many of us believed could only go in one direction….down. To return to this work 16 years later and find that 60,000 people sleeping in shelters each night is considered the new low is shocking, to say the least.
Some aspects of homelessness haven’t changed during this time period. Comprising three-quarters of the shelter population, women and children are still the most likely people to experience homelessness in New York. Curiously, this reality continues to surprise many New Yorkers.
Understanding what homelessness is would likely help to increase awareness and understanding about who experiences it, and how to solve the problem. The primary cause of homelessness in NYC is the lack of affordable housing. In this way, homelessness is a structural housing crisis and an economic circumstance that says nothing about the humanity of the people who experience it and everything about the society that doesn’t work adequately to solve it.
To be without home isn’t a personal flaw. It’s an inhumanity and an injustice visited disproportionately on those more likely to be marginalized and isolated by structural inequalities and hurts in life – namely, people of color, LGBTQIA individuals, immigrants, women and children, victims of mass incarceration, people living with mental illness, people with physical or intellectual disability, and victims of violence and abuse.
In my work across multiple issue areas and organizations, and in my personal experience, I know home to be the foundation of stability, safety and self. Without home, we cannot fully be. This is why housing should be a basic human right.
I chose to work with The Partnership because of its long history of promoting home as a right for all people, and its approach of listening to the people most affected by homelessness to evolve its services over time – from its early days of securing shelter for people living on the street to its current programming for children and women.
Coming back to this field, I see clearly that prevention is key to ending homelessness. This vision means creating more affordable housing to keep people in their homes and communities, intervening before evictions become reality, keeping children in school so they don’t fall behind and run the risk of becoming tomorrow’s shelter population, and ensuring people who do lose their homes and end up in shelters get the help they need to find safe, stable housing, and have access to community supports, like health and well-being services, that will help them rebuild their lives and stay permanently housed.
Understanding that no one organization or sector alone can solve a problem of this magnitude, my vision for The Partnership’s approach is in our name – Partnership. By engaging diverse communities and all sectors, we ensure that people at risk of, experiencing, or recovering from homelessness have the support of their communities.
This means partnering with:
- Landlords and the legal community on mediations and early interventions to better stave off evictions
- Community health and well-being organizations to connect clients to the long term supports that help them heal and rebuild their homes and lives after leaving shelter
- Shelters, schools, parents, teachers, DHS, DOE, and children’s advocates to keep children in school, and give them the best chance of escaping intergenerational poverty and homelessness
- Elected and community leaders to drive investments in affordable housing, protections for tenants, consequences for housing and income discrimination, support for students in shelter, and the placement of community shelters for community residents who fall on hard times
- Equality and human rights organizations across multiple issue areas to make housing a core element of the collective human rights agenda, and to increase interventions for the people who experience homelessness at disproportionately higher rates
- Media and social influencers to ensure that the complete story of homelessness is told far and wide. Presenting the whole story ensures that those experiencing homelessness remain part of the core social equation, rather than being rendered invisible or, worse, villainized
- Individual donors, volunteers, and supporters to ensure our programming is effective and impactful
- Corporations and foundations to ensure cross-sector strategic thinking and support for innovative programming
Homelessness is a microcosm of the hurts and discrimination that exist in our broader society. Homelessness is what happens when the city’s lack of affordable housing crosses over with poverty and the hurts of society. In partnership, we ensure that the people who are rendered the most precarious by other structural ills don’t fall prey to homelessness, too. I hope you will partner with me to ensure The Partnership achieves its vision of ending homelessness in NYC.