Monday, March 31, 2008

FannieMae and Homelessness

On February 8, 2008, FannieMae released the findings of its national survey on the attitudes and perceptions of the American public toward homelessness.

Stacey D. Stewart, FannieMae Senior VP--Office of Community and Charitable Giving, said, "We wanted to know what assumptions Americans shared about people who are homeless and find out what Americans were willing to do to help homeless people. And we wanted to see how close homelessness had come to our neighbors."

The report resulted in the production of a 26-minute video summation entitled, "Homeward Bound: The Path to Ending Homelessness." This presentation introduces viewers to organizations working to overcome homelessness, as well as a number of people who know homelessness personally.

Among the findings of the survey were these interesting tidbits:

  • 89% of Americans believe that our communities are safer when people do not have to live on the streets

  • 93% want to live in a community that provides for the care of its homeless citizens

  • 81% believe communities should construct more affordable housing to serve all of their citizens

  • The majority of Americans polled believe that homelessness is increasing

  • 28% have worried at some point that they might not have a place to live

  • 44% have taken in a friend or relative who was facing homelessness

  • 85% believe that alcohol and drug abuse are major reasons for homelessness

  • Only 9% believe that homelessness can be eliminated

How do you feel about homelessness in your community? How would your answers and experiences line up or differ from those above?

Can homelessness be eliminated?



Mikey said...

I have no problem believing any of those percentages... My answers would probably be right in line with most of those.

But I DO believe that homelessness could be eliminated. I do believe that it is unlikely given our current political and economic atmosphere. Homelessness will not be eliminated until we make it a priority to eliminate homelessness.

An example: in the 60s, JFK and national pride and fear of the godless commies combined to give our space program a huge push - and eventually put Americans on the moon.

I don't want to take away from the myriad of advances that have improved our society because of the space program...

But as a thought experiment - take the number of dollars spent between the date of JFK's speech and the first steps on the moon... translate that into today's dollars... and figure what could happen if people like Larry and others were able to use that money in their housing initiatives.

I've not done that research, so I don't know exactly how much money we're talking about - and how many people that would help - but I know enough to realize it would be significant.

It's a question of priorities, not ability...

spike said...

This is something I've thought a lot about. I don't know enough about the sources of homelessness to say for sure. Part of me thinks it should be so easy to eliminate it, but part of me also thinks that homelessness is just a symptom of a troubled society, not a problem unto itself.

It seems like in order to end homelessness, you'd have to dramatically increase mental health and substance abuse services, in addition to increasing the amount of affordable housing. Not to mention bolstering education so everyone can have a job to pay affordable rent. Finally, let's not forget programs to help people pay their rent/mortgage if they happen to lose their jobs, etc.

But will even all that really end homelessness? One of the questions I've always had -- and I haven't gotten a satisfactory answer yet -- is this: are there any people out there who genuinely prefer to be homeless? If there are, I don't think you'll ever end it.

Larry James said...

Thanks for these posts! I agree that we could end it, almost completely if we arrayed our resources more effectively. We are believing that permanent supportive housing is the key to ending homelessness, especially the chronic variety. Spike, there may be some small fraction of the population that prefers being homeless, but 1) I believe that the numbers are very small and related to mental health issues and 2) are the result of the inadequate responses of our current system. We need housing that is accessible, permanent and affordable. And, as Mikey says, this is largely a matter of priority.

Anonymous said...

Larry, you wrote: "Can homelessness be eliminated?"

In all of the Hollywood disaster movies, people die in mass numbers, but the focus is on the survival of one brave man/woman/family, beating the odds with courage and determination. The movies work because we believe that the "one" is worth it.

Yes -- homelessness can be eliminated -- one homeless person at a time. That is why I like what you do. You're willing to start, and work, for the "one," one person at a time. But you do so working toward larger solutions, with all the alliances you can muster.

As JFK put it:
"All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin."

Randy Mayeux, Dallas

belinda said...

whoa - stepped on my toes with that anti-NASA talk! I work for NASA! People tend to forget all the good accomplished by NASA, especially when compared to building bombs and tanks.

Anonymous said...


I'm liberal Democrat who is a big fan of NASA! I used to work for an airline, and was lucky enough to meet, process and help hire a former shuttle commander as one of our pilots, which was a thrill.

I think money spent on space programs is money well spent and would rather we quit waging ludicrous wars and spend that money on housing.

Keep up the good work.