November 11, 2021
Beyond Homeless: Policy Solutions for the Bay Area and Beyond
SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 11, 2021The Bay Areas housing and homelessness crises will not be resolved until policymakers and service providers stop relying on conventional approaches, which do not work, conclude the authors of a new peer-reviewed policy report titled Beyond Homeless: Good Intentions, Bad Outcomes, Transformative Solutions.
The multi-author report provides an in-depth analysis of the root causes of homelessness, critiques current homelessness and housing policies, and offers recommendations for resolving the housing and homelessness crises. The Report co-authors are Mary L.G. Theroux, Adam B. Summers, Lawrence J. McQuillan, Jonathan Hofer, Hovannes Abramyan, and Scott Beyer, with a foreword by Scott Ackerson.
Homelessness is complicated, and its causes are unique to each individual, said Mary Theroux, coauthor of the report and Director of the Beyond Homeless initiative. Therefore any one-size-fits-all approach will never be effective. Yet, thats how homelessness continues to be addressed.
While the report includes an examination of housing policy and concludes that Californias housing crisis must be resolvednot only for those experiencing homelessness, but for all Californiansit also shows that significant progress can be made toward resolving homelessness even in advance of expanding the housing supply.
The solutions-driven policy report is divided into sections on the current state of homelessness in California and the Bay Area and factors contributing to it, followed by analyses of Housing First and Harm Reduction policies, and the lack of success despite spending more money to address the issue. It then provides case studies of successful real-world programs, and concludes with specific policy recommendations for both homelessness and housing policies.
Homelessness is a symptom of larger root causes, both unique to the individuals experiencing homelessness and to the broader public policies adopted to address it, said Theroux. We can continue to direct billions of dollars at approaches that have been proven not to work. Or we can pursue a new strategy with a proven track record of success that addresses the root causes.
A companion documentary, Beyond Homeless: Finding Hope, will be released in early 2022.
Among the reports findings:
- From 2017 to 2019 [the last year a count was done, due to COVID-19] homelessness across California increased 15 percent, with an increase of 27 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area, including 31 percent in San Francisco, 40 percent in San Jose, and 47 percent in Oakland
- This increase has been accompanied by more spending on homelessness, but the situation continues to worsen. Since 2012, the City of San Franciscos spending on homelessness has increased by 132 percent, while the number of people experiencing homelessness has increased 52 percent
- Locales that have achieved significant declines in homelessness have adopted coordinated approaches. San Antonio, in Bexar County, Texas, has coordinated its police and fire, emergency, hospital, psychiatric, and other homeless service providers. Starting with homelessness numbers similar to San Franciscos, Bexar County, since changing its approach, has seen an 11 percent decline in homelessness, with a 77 percent decline in downtown San Antonios unsheltered homelessness. Over the same period, San Franciscos homelessness has increased 80 percent
- People experience homelessness for different reasons. Some may experience homelessness because of trauma or mental health issues, while others may experience homelessness due to hospitalizations later in life, addiction, or losing a job. Since the causes of homelessness are many, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A successful approach involves long-term individualized care that addresses underlying root causes, such as untreated trauma. Housing independence results from successful recovery
Beyond Homeless Policy Solutions:
- Resources need to be tied to demonstrated performance metrics and positive outcomes. Currently, when state and local entities miss their benchmarks, officials simply extend the target dates and the money keeps flowing, with no accountability
- An array of options offering continuums of care needs to be provided to individuals and families experiencing homelessness
- Technology provides new opportunities to track program participants and report on outcomes, as well as flag and address issues before people fall back into homelessness
- Californias strangling housing regulations and restrictions must be loosened to allow the provision of housing at all price points and eliminate a key driver of homelessness and a barrier to its solution
Beyond Homeless is a partnership initiative between the Independent Institute and diverse community organizations collaborating together to address the plight of homelessness. For more information about Beyond Homeless, visit https://www.beyondhomeless.org
To download a copy of the report, click https://www.beyondhomeless.org/our-work-media/
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