From Alicia Horton, Executive Director of Thrive DC
The solutions for homelessness cannot be painted with one magic brush stroke. Homelessness is the result of a broken system that sets up our community’s most vulnerable indiviuals and families for continued failure. The issues that surround homelessness are complex – as are the solutions.
Of course, the most immediate answer is to find everyone without a home a place to live. This would answer the most immediate and obvious need; however the reasons people fall victim to homelessness are not addressed in the “give them a place to live solution.”
Until we can develop a system that effectively addresses the underlying causes of homelessness, we are simply putting a band-aid on a much larger issue and sweeping the remnants of a broken system under the rug.
- The mental health system must be addressed so that we are able to deal more effectively with those mentally ill individuals who are unable to function without significant on-going supports.
- The prison system and our capacity to effectively receive people back into the community needs to be re-evaluated and re-organized to help returning individuals become contributing, self-sufficient members of society.
- Our health care system is still woefully unable to help address the needs of the working poor who suffer a catastrophic illness or disability. This system leaves individuals, who are without financial safety nets, destitute after a major illness.
- Affordable housing, living wage jobs, effective senior care, comprehensive veteran’s services, and sustainable cost of living increases are all necessary pieces to the complex solution of ending homelessness.
Housing individuals and families without a place to live is a step in the right direction, but it falls far short of the full answer to eradicating homelessness. An effective long-term plan to end homelessness will incorporate strong preventative measures that support self-sufficiency as well as programs that respond rapidly to people in crisis.