When it comes to homelessness, meaning the number of people living in shelters, on the streets and in other unsafe places, I’m happy to note that our state homelessness rate dropped by 9% between 2014 and 2016. The date from the same time period shows an 80% increase in rapid re-housing beds and a 38% decrease in transitional housing beds.
I believe this is a direct result of prioritizing resources for rapid re-housing. But I believe much remains to be done. The goal should be permanent housing.
We need to understand, however, some of the underlying challenges of homelessness.
Providing housing first doesn’t solve the problems that underlie homelessness. It takes more than a place to live to keep people off the streets. A homeless person may not have the skills necessary to take care of themselves and an apartment.
Some people, for various reasons, actually feel more “at home” on the street than indoors.
The best long-term approach to homelessness, in my opinion, involves a combination of education, coaching and mentoring. Homeless individuals may need help to care for simple chores such as washing dishes, cooking, and organizing and maintaining an apartment. Couches can assist them with making good choices.
Above all, we as a society need to be educated on how to help friends and loved ones who are homeless, knowing that it doesn’t take much for any of us to end up homeless.
We need to understand the importance of family ties and healthy friendships to help overcome homelessness. There are things the government can do toward ending homelessness, but I believe the greatest effect will come through healthy relationship-building in our society.
Paid for by Dr. Jim Hines for Governor; P.O. Box 5595, Saginaw, MI 48603