This week, National Public Radio (NPR) has been covering homelessness in Seattle. This affluent, idyllic city has raised to fourth on the list of cities in the nation with the highest rates of homelessness. Seattle follows New York City, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas as the city with the greatest number of people experiencing homelessness. Unlike other cities in America (even the “big three” of NY, LA, and LV) where homelessness is decreasing (albeit slowly) due to increased policy efforts targeted at veteran and family homelessness, Seattle has seen an increase in homeless residents in the past decade. Seattle’s 211 line (the emergency line for homeless residents in crisis) is flooded with calls and the waiting lists for shelters and affordable housing units are years long.
Click here to read or listen to a poignant piece from American University’s radio station WAMU …. Rapid ReHousing is a program that began at the federal level, but has since caught on at the state and local levels. Rapid ReHousing is a temporary fix for the long-term problem of limited affordable housing. This program gives homeless families a rental voucher that allows them to live in an average cost apartment for a certain period of time (usually six months to two years, depending on the program). When the rental voucher runs out, some families cannot afford the “average” cost rent and they are forced to move out.
According to WAMU’s report, Rapid ReHousing is encouraged by advocates who predict that it will work for about 80% of families who will not re-enter a shelter after participating in the program. These are only predicted figures that acknowledge the “band aid fix” nature of the intervention.
However, the Rapid ReHousing program model does not solve the real problem: limited affordable housing. An excerpt from the report shines light on the severity of the problem:
“Kate Coventry, a policy analyst with the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, says to afford market-rate rent, a single mom making minimum wage would have to work three full time jobs, or more than 120 hours a week…’I think it is a mistake to think that the homeless system alone can solve all of these issues of poverty,’ says Kelly Sweeney McShane, with Community of Hope. “We need more affordable housing. We need more jobs. We need more living wage jobs. We need other services that will help families not fall through the cracks.’ ”
CLICK HERE to read the NPR story on the homeless advocate who is on the move… Advocate and entrepreneur, Sean Cononie, is moving his shelter out of Hollywood, FL to Central, FL. This eccentric advocate is moving the shelter from Hollywood to an area near Disney World because the city and the county (Broward County, FL) are not cooperating with homeless residents.
An excerpt from the NPR coverage:
“Like much of South Florida, Hollywood is seeing a building boom, with more than $1 billion of development in the works. Storey [a Hollywood city official] says that Cononie’s homeless shelter presented an obstacle in an area targeted for redevelopment along one of the city’s main commercial corridors.Broward County last year, has seen a marked increase in homelessness among the working poor — people with full time jobs who can’t afford to pay first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit…As old neighborhoods give way to new development…a lack of affordable housing will mean Hollywood’s homeless problem is likely to persist long after Cononie and his shelter have moved on.”