In 2000, the National Alliance to End Homelessness put out a challenge to end homelessness in the United States. This call caught the attention of HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, and under President George W. Bush, the Interagency Council on Homelessness then designed a “Ten Year Plan” to end homelessness. More than 200 U.S. cities immediately signed on to the effort, including several in Virginia. President Barack Obama recently affirmed the federal government’s involvement with ending homelessness when he released an update: “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.”
Overall, the rate of homelessness has been on a downtrend for the past ten years; there are about 150,000 fewer homeless people today than there were in 2004. For details, see http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/the-state-of-homelessness-2014
Homelessness is considered a “lagging indicator” of a nation’s economic health; although it’s been getting better, it has done so at a slower rate than the economy overall.
Housing for people with persistent mental illness poses unique challenges for communities. It is worth noting that having stable housing for people with mental illness is considered an evidence-based practice (EBP). This EBP status is achieved when a given intervention (supported housing in this case) results in improved functioning, fewer hospitalizations, less contact with emergency responders (police, EMS), higher reports of satisfaction by the person and his or her family—and when the intervention is economically feasible. Though supportive housing does have a cost, it is still much less than the costs associated with hospitalizations, contact with emergency responders, and lost work time.
For example, here are the average daily costs to house a person in various institutional settings in New York City (2004)
- Supportive housing $41.85
- Shelter $54.42
- Prison $74.00
- Jail $164.57
- Psychiatric hospital $467
- Hospital $1185
There are barriers to housing programs, of course, including accessibility, discrimination, and lack of affordable housing. An excellent summary of barriers faced by people with disabilities can be found here.
Housing Choice vouchers are the most popular option of all public housing programs for people with disabilities administered through the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). The tenant-based vouchers are flexible and may be used to rent townhomes, apartments, or single-family homes in the private market, truly promoting community inclusion. To see housing program options in your area, please take a look at this here.