Continuums of Care programs have helped a great deal in easing the situation of the homeless. Yet, we are still left with many questions. What are the costs of housing and services? And where is the discretion of local officials? How do we improve our system? These are all valid questions. This article looks at some of the answers to those questions. In this piece, I’ll also consider the costs of government spending and lack of discretion in local governments.
Continuums of Care programs
Continuums of Care (CoC) is an approach to help communities develop plans for homeless housing and other permanent housing, and addresses their local homeless needs. Its lead agency is the Homeless Alliance of Western New York. This organization coordinates planning efforts for the CoC, including submitting the application for HUD funding for homeless assistance. Continuums of Care programs have evolved dramatically since they were first created.
Government spending on homelessness has increased in recent years, but what does that mean for the homeless population? In fiscal 2020, Congress wants to spend $2.8 billion on homeless assistance grants, an increase of six percent over last year. But the increase barely keeps pace with rising housing costs. The top five percent of the homeless population make more than $100,000 a year. Even if more government money were spent to end the homelessness crisis, it would still leave millions without a roof over their heads.
The United States spends about $425 billion a year on housing the homeless, but that’s not enough to end the problem. We need to do more. Housing costs in the US can reach nearly half a trillion dollars. That’s enough to provide shelter for every homeless person in the country. Yet the costs of homelessness are far more substantial. While government aid is crucial to end homelessness, it’s not enough. In fact, the costs of housing the homeless are even more staggering.
Lack of discretion of local officials
The “right to shelter” was introduced in New York City in the late spring, and the homeless were promised round the clock security, access to water and toilets, and social distancing. However, residents are complaining about lack of hygiene supplies and the spread of COVID-19. This is an inequitable solution and a clear case of ineffective law enforcement. In a recent article in the New York Times, David Kirk Hart argues that cities must “empower” local officials with the capacity to serve their citizens.
Impact of pandemic crisis on homelessness
The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has exacerbated the current homelessness problems. Many people have been forced from their homes by job loss and lack of income. These two factors have contributed to an increase in the number of homeless people in Sacramento, California. Unfortunately, these measures have failed to address the unique needs of the homeless population. Public policy responses to the pandemic crisis should take into account these factors.