We’re not sure our nation or community is anywhere close to that end.
Homelessness is as complex as the individuals affected. They are very different — families, elderly, children, single people —as are the problems that lead them to become homeless for short periods, for repeated short periods, or for long periods.
The complex problem has complex answers that include affordable housing, jobs, mental health and substance abuse treatment. If it were easy we all would have seen the 10-year deadline met in 2010.
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It is unclear why this is repeatedly painted as just Belleville’s problem. Taking that view minimizes the difficulty and allows too many to avoid responsibility for the solution.
It is a regional problem, with a mosaic of community resources needed — money being at the forefront.
Preventing homelessness, especially for children, should be the first priority. That usually means public housing or Section 8 housing, with the accompanying resistance from neighbors.
When the crisis happens, a shelter is needed to get people off the streets. That shelter should be seen as transitional and a portal to services, just as St. Louis is establishing, and not as a bed for a few nights.
Counseling needs to happen at the shelter. People need to be connected with rapid rehousing, giving them 12 or 18 months of housing so they can gain stability. Job, mental health, drug and alcohol screening and counseling need to happen so the homeless are connected to the right resources.
About 10 percent of the homeless were chronically so, mostly as a result of mental illness or substance abuse. This is the toughest population to reach, and local advocates estimated they take up 50 percent of the public resources.
However the vast majority of the homeless population is not these chronic cases and can be helped with much less effort. Coordination of churches, government, schools, food banks, mental health and health care could potentially solve 90 percent of the problem, but not if the attitude is that this is one community’s or group’s worry that is solved by one building.