The federal government has announced that the country has cut the number of “chronically homeless people” by approximately 30 percent between 2005 and 2007. The actual numbers are a reduction from 175,914 to 123,833—52,081 real people actually moved from the “homeless” to the “housed.”
Officials attribute the significant decline in chronically homeless people to a shift in federal policy embraced both by Congress and the Bush administration to focus local, state and federal resources on the “chronic homeless”—those suffering from mental illness, drug addiction, and physical disabilities.
The new strategy, known as “Housing First,” has succeeded in making the most significant reduction in homelessness in more than a decade. Martha Burt, of New York’s Urban Institute, called the decline in chronic homelessness “nothing short of phenomenal.”
That is good news, and we should applaud all of those responsible for the tremendous success of these new programs at all levels of government.
However, the bad news is that homelessness is still far too prevalent in our society. In a country as affluent as America, we should not rest until we have virtually eliminated homelessness among our citizens.
We should draw encouragement from the success of the Housing First program to continue looking for government programs that do work and use them to address the remaining homeless in our population.
For perhaps the only time in my memory, I’m going to quote affirmatively Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), the chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, who said that while this reduction in homelessness is “great news,” that as a nation “we cannot rest because there is much that remains to be done.”
While she is right, let us at least take a moment to praise good news.
This column originally posted at Casting Stones, a blog hosted by Beliefnet.com.