Monday, December 21, 2009

Unwelcome Mat Comments, Part V

This commentator recommends checking out Haven for Hope:

Please check out

These folks are taking the right approach and treating the homeless as real people.

Haven for Hope is a really good facility in San Antonio, but it doesn’t provide permanent supportive housing. Instead it’s the equivalent of The Bridge here in Dallas, a service and intake center for people who are homeless.

The confusion between different types of facilities for homeless people is pretty common (and pretty understandable—I can’t tell one type of car from another; it’s not my job and I’m not that interested). I think it’s important to try to make distinctions between different types of facilities, though, because they have wildly different impacts on neighborhoods.

Service centers or resource centers like The Bridge and Haven for Hope are designed to attract and serve large numbers of homeless people. They are the center of a city’s homeless programs, and although usually run well and professionally (like The Bridge and Haven for Hope), such centers have an unavoidable impact on an area because of the number of people who visit them. These facilities belong in the downtown area, not in a residential neighborhood and typically there is only one such facility in any city.

Shelters usually provide dormitory-style sleeping arrangements for one night only at a time. They often have a significant impact on a neighborhood because their patrons have to leave in the morning and then return in the evening. That practically guarantees a number of people will spend the day wandering around until they can return to the shelter again.

While necessary, so long as we don’t have any alternatives, shelters don’t help someone put their life back together by providing a permanent place to live and, personally, I hope someday to see shelters reduced to a bare minimum—just enough to provide a place for people for a night in an emergency situation.

Permanent supportive housing is what we build, so naturally I think it’s the best solution (why would we be doing it otherwise?). It provides an apartment to people that have been homeless and a platform to begin putting their life back together. People have their own place, so there is no reason to wander the streets (like shelters encourage) and they don’t provide services except for the people who live there, so they don’t attract crowds (like The Bridge or Haven for Hope).

If you visit permanent supportive housing projects, then you wouldn’t know that the people that live there were formerly homeless until you take a close look. Every study shows that they don’t negatively impact neighborhoods.

I believe that permanent supportive housing is the best solution to homelessness and that it can make our cities better, more pleasant places to live. We need not to confuse them with shelters or resource centers, which have significantly more impact on their surroundings.

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