The numbers are striking.
Photo via (cc) Flickr user Jonathan Greenwald
In 2010, the Obama administration started its Opening Doors program, the federal government’s first strategic plan to end homelessness. Around 500,000 people sleep on America’s streets every night, but that number reflects a steep decline. Between 2007 and 2015, homelessness fell by 11 percent, and chronic homelessness is down a whopping 31 percent. Even more striking is the drop in homelessness among veterans, which is down 35 percent over the past six years and 50 percent in the past four.
This drastic change is due to smart, bipartisan policy coordinated at the state and federal levels. In fact, earlier this year, Virginia became the first U.S. state to nearly end veteran homelessness altogether. Recently, Housing and Urban Development czar Julian Castro told Policy.Mic that the reason for the recent success is housing-first programs. “The idea behind housing-first is to get a homeless person into permanent housing—not transitional housing or shelter, but permanent housing immediately. That’s based on the notion that housing has a very stabilizing influence on a person.”
When asked whether housing-first initiatives encourage the homeless to live on handouts instead of accepting personal responsibility, Castro said he’s seen results that show just the opposite. “The usual dynamic of public policy is that we expect responsibility from someone, and then we give them an opportunity. Here we give them the opportunity of permanent housing right away, and that allows them to help take the responsibility necessary to improve their lives.”