Friday, September 27, 2013

Housing First. . .and Human Rights

Working the streets of Dallas drives me to one conclusion:  our city needs hundreds of additional housing units that could immediately be filled with people who live on our streets.  My experience over the past two decades has converted me to the "Housing First" model.

Simply put, "Housing First" directs us to solve a person's housing problem quickly and first, even before rendering other direct services.

Once a person has housing, supportive services and the assurance that their housing is permanent, then friends and advocates can go to work with a person on a life plan of the neighbor's own devising.  Managing change, providing treatment and further interventions for life and health, all happen best and most effectively when a person is working from the stability of having a place to call home.

Lots of people don't agree.

Over the next several days I intend to share a message that I recently delivered to a group of people who wanted to talk about housing for our homeless neighbors.  I will break it down into bite-sized pieces.  And, as always, I invite conversation.

Efforts to end homelessness in Dallas face a number of obstacles, most of which appear in the form of what I call "unsatisfying half measures."  

Here's one:  Shelters posing as housing.

Shelters operated properly can be humane, cheap and efficient ways to provide beds, a night at a time, for our homeless friends.

However, and listen hard just here, we must not regard night shelters as housing.  In my view, every night shelter in the U. S. should be required to put the word "Emergency" in their organizational titles.

If you can't hang a picture on a wall, what you're living in is not a home.  

For all the good a well-run night shelter may accomplish, let's just be clear, shelters don't provide a home for any homeless person.

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