Are We Turning the Corner on Homelessness?

August 13, 2014

David Bley and David Wertheimer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have three recent posts addressing related aspects of homelessness on the Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists blog.

"How do we make homelessness a one-time occurrence?" asks David Bley, showcasing King County's innovations, which include a new rapid re-housing model to address homelessness. Rapid re-housing helps put families immediately into permanent housing while they receive employment assistance, case management support and additional services as needed. The key point for funders and nonprofit service providers, Bley argues, is that we need to stop defining ourselves and our work based only on the sub-population we choose to help. All are critically important.

"What happens when we really start to end homelessness?" asks David Wertheimer. Reporting from this year's National Alliance to End Homelessness conference, Wertheimer says that we are making significant and documented progress towards our goal of ending homelessness.  The data show that we now know the best ways to reduce homelessness for individuals, youth, families and veterans, including:

  • Permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing within a “housing first” framework
  • Service-enriched transitional housing for homeless youth
  • Formal programmatic linkages to mainstream systems to help build skills
  • Job-readiness, social capital and inpidual and family resilience

Wertheimer also digs back into the nuts and bolts of the programs we use to address homelessness in his post, "Making Connections: Economic Opportunities and the Pathway to Ending Family Homelessness." He observes that Washington state and a number of communities across the U.S. are linking economic security and housing stability as "critical keys to the work of ending homelessness. Programs based on this link have "documented promising results, including increased earned family income, increased rates of job retention, and connections to employment with career pathway potentials in fields such as health care, manufacturing, construction, retail, social services, hotels and hospitality, security, property management, and financial services," writes Wertheimer.

We are beginning to get our arms around the issue of homelessness in a meaningful way. As Wertheimer states, "The skeptics are losing ground as we demonstrate that we can achieve the day when homelessness, if it does occur, will be something rare, brief in duration, and a one-time-only experience."