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To: President Donald Trump, The California State House, The California State Senate, Governor Gavin Newsom, The United States House of Representatives, and The United States Senate
End Homelessness in America
homelessness did not disappear in the 1990s, despite the nation’s economic boom.
In fact, it appears to have increased. On any given day, at least 800,000 people are homeless in the United States,
These startling statistics, however, do not tell the whole story.
Homelessness in America is a “revolving-door” crisis. Many people exit
homelessness quickly, but many more individuals become homeless every day. During a year’s time, four or five times as many people experience homelessness as are homeless on any particular day. Calculations from
different sources show that in the late 1990s at least 2.3 million, and perhaps as many as 3.5 million, people experienced homelessness at
some time during an average year. Because more families with children than unpartnered people enter and leave homelessness during a year, families represent a relatively large share of the annual population. As a result, during a typical year, between 900,000 and 1.4 million children are homeless with their families.
Annual homelessness figures exceed 1 percent of the total U.S. population and may represent as much as 10 percent of all poor people in this country. Even though many of these people are homeless for only a short time, each spell can be devastating. With 1 out of every 10 poor people in America facing homelessness at some time during an average year, current policies clearly are not working. Homelessness stems from desperate poverty combined with unaffordable housing in communities too strapped to support their most troubled members. These circumstances explain why between 5 and 10 percent of poor people experience homelessness in a period
as short as a year.
Personal difficulties, such as mental disabilities or job loss, may increase vulnerability to homelessness, but they cannot explain the high number of people who fall into homelessness every year. And housing market trends indicate that the situation is getting worse rather than better. Current levels of housing costs, coupled with low-wage jobs and economic contraction, could push even the working poor out of their homes. Although the availability of homeless services increased significantly during the past decade, meeting the needs of people once they become homeless is not enough.
A concerted national strategy is needed to prevent homelessness, and to end quickly discrete episodes of homelessness if they become inevitable. That strategy must include new housing resources as well as community-building strategies that address the societal factors contributing to homelessness. Each community must work to supply affordable housing, improve schools, and provide support services for those in need. Only strategies that address systemic problems as well as provide emergency relief can eliminate homelessness in this country.
Why is this important?
Every night there are around 650,000 people, some 75 percent are families with children, without a roof over their heads. But for 80 percent, these crushing weeks will be the only stint of homelessness in their lives. Most have some money a strong work ethic, but are just unable to find work and secure low-cost housing. Providing short-term housing and support services to help the homeless back on their feet is not only the right thing to do morally, it also saves money in the long run by cutting down on other costs to the community.