Though every year communities understand that cold weather brings increased risk of illness and even death among those who do not have safe and permanent warm residence, it seems there is more contention about the opening of emergency winter shelters this year. For that matter, it seems like there is ever more contention about the placement or even opening of emergency shelter beds, even as demand for emergency shelter is increasing. Recent news stories show the number of people experiencing homelessness is:
- Utah seeing 48% increase in homeless children
- St. Paul, MN reports at least 100 people in families turned away from shelter
- Providence, RI has highest number of people requesting emergency shelter in 25 years of record keeping
- Ann Arbor, MI struggles with increases in the hundreds
While the number of emergency shelter beds is not increasing with the need:
- Kane County, IL rejects bid for new 20 bed shelter
- Ashville, NC closes Safe Haven as planned, but is everyone permanently housed?
- Washington, DC to lose 70 bed and only bi-lingual shelter
- Indianapolis renovated hotel shelter loses support
The discussion that communities are having around opening emergency winter shelters for increased numbers of families and individuals they expect to need housing this winter could easily be shortened by providing that elusive solution to homelessness: housing. The Obama Administration helped a great deal by providing permanent housing solutions through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. But funds for programs like the Homeless Prevention and Rapid-Rehousing program are running out this year. Our challenge remains to provide long-term housing solutions, while providing for the safety of families and individuals who have no place to call home tonight.
Lots of communities are providing these long-term solutions, like the 100,000 Homes Campaign, along with other programs dedicating new sources of permanent housing and working as a community to provide the services people need. But the challenge still remains, how can we use what little funding is available to provide permanent and preventative solutions to homelessness, while ensuring that everyone who is homeless tonight has at least a warm bed and roof over their heads?
YOUR concern for your homeless neighbors, or advocacy for the homelessness YOU may be experiencing, is more critical that it has ever been. Make homelessness a topic of regular conversation! Talk to your family, friends, neighbors and legislators about the need for housing solutions now. Let’s not sit by while families, brothers, daughters, parents freeze on our streets this winter.
Keep learning at www.nationalhomeless.org.