Is Houston a model in reducing homelessness, or will its policies fail?

Newly appointed Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) Jeff Olivier Visited Houston on April 28 To announce the “success” of Bayou City in reducing homelessness by 62 percent. On the eve of his trip, he emailed homeless advocates about the city’s efforts, “Great Houston. We’re not sure if it can be replicated.” The question must be, is it sustainable?

Since the Obama administration, the federal government’s approach to reducing homelessness has relied on a simple concept: the homeless are homeless because they don’t have a home. Give them a home – and no matter their underlying addiction or mental illness – they won’t be homeless anymore. This policy is called “housing first”.

The theory, which has become mandatory for groups receiving billions in federal funding to address the problem of homelessness, is that people experiencing homelessness cannot be helped unless they have a home without conditions such as sobriety. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has even stopped funding mental health services, addiction counseling, and employment training. Unfortunately, the one-size-fits-all policy ignores human nature and often results in frustratingly low expectations of the soul that makes much of a dependency.

Human debris created by Housing First was revealed last year in Boston where it was 14 years old study Tracked 73 chronically homeless people who were provided with permanent supportive housing. The researchers found that focusing on housing rather than treatment and recovery saw impressive early results, but by the fifth year, only 36 percent remained in a shelter, while at the end of the study, nearly half of the group died from the “triple morbidity” combination of psychiatry and psychiatry . , and substance use disorder.

Results outside of California And across the nation also propose this approach Not working for the homeless.

On the surface, Houston might be onto something. Over the past nine years, the city of Houston has seen a decrease in homelessness 49 percentwith the number of protected homeless decreased by 204 and the number of homeless people by 2932 According to a point in time (PIT) calculation.

Data, like people, can be complex, so the picture is not sunny as it looks. After a few decent years of persuading people to live (2011-2016), Houston’s efforts may have reached the limits shown in the Boston study. Since 2017, the number of homeless people – the population for which the first housing intervention was originally designed – by 33 percent.

This stability and recovery may be due to a lack of focus on treatment and options in the current regimen. some 78 percent of the homeless on the streets have a substance use disorder and/or mental illness, And the The vast majority of addicts/mentally ill suffer from blindness Lack of self-awareness. This means that providing housing without requirements, where services are optional and where residents can continue to engage in negative behaviors, is increasingly intuitively counterproductive.

However, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that with the help of the $615 million federal bailout, Houston will now spend 100 million dollars Under Housing First targets half of the chronically homeless population.

Yet even that spending will ignore another growing and vulnerable population: Houston’s homeless K-12 students. 16% since 2017by 26 percent since this education data was made public in 2013. This was the population Estimated at 7,885 Homeless students in the 2019-2020 school year – excluding students’ parents and pre-kindergarten siblings. Unfortunately, it is these forgotten populations – who are not considered ‘homeless enough’ – resulting in higher incidences of trauma that will occur. Generate more chronic homelessness in the coming years.

Houston deserves credit for the progress made in reducing homelessness. But its approach – along with the federal government – is likely to reach its human limits, due to its single material focus often leading to a life of misery and early death.

Homelessness is not caused by a single factor, and strategies to help adults and children who experience it should not be limited to a single solution.

Michelle Stipe is a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and author of Answers Behind the Red Door: Fighting the Homeless Epidemic.

Chuck Devore is Vice President of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and has served in the California Legislature for six years.