Wick Communications

Counting the homeless

In Ideas on 12 Feb 2015 at 1:51 pm
A homeless encampment under a bridge in Half Moon Bay.

A homeless encampment under a bridge in Half Moon Bay.

File this under story ideas.

Here in San Mateo County, Calif., government officials in 2005 pledged to eradicate homelessness within a decade. We’re now 10 years out, and the problem persists. After a year-long planning effort, followed by elaborate public-private partnerships that include an every-other-year census and an improving economy, we have 11 percent more homeless people on our streets than we did at the time officials pledged to end the problem.

Obviously, your results may vary, but I’m guessing that homelessness remains a vexing problem in your community. Some ideas you might follow:

Who are they? Is there a prototypical homeless person in your community? Thanks to the government counts (which, by the way, are required each January in order to get federal “Continuum of Care” funding) we know that our population is overwhelmingly male, likely to be disabled and addicted. Thankfully, there are relatively few unsheltered children here, apparently.

How much is spent? To give you some idea, the 2013 federal budget included $4.7 billion to assist the homeless – a 17 percent increase over 2012. What do you have to show for that money in your community?

Are there other ideas? Maybe there are models for success. Find them.

Put a face on the problem. Profile someone in your community who is perhaps well known on the streets. How did he end up there? What are his problems? What would he need in order to gain a stable roof over his head? …

It’s just an idea and something I’ve been thinking about in the last month or so. I bet your community has similar struggles.



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