Reading that the city’s budget will significantly expand the personnel focused on homelessness made me reflect on how many years homelessness has been an issue in the U.S. [“Council Approves $217 Million Asheville Budget,” July 6, Xpress]. I thought back to the first national homelessness march in Washington, D.C., in 1989. The theme was affordable housing, and the mantra at that march was “Housing, Housing, Housing!” Thirty-three years have passed!
U.S. cities have tried all kinds of housing to address homelessness — emergency shelters, transitional housing, safe havens, wet and dry housing, housing first and permanent supportive housing. Local providers continue to try all of these, yet the city’s statistics show the population’s growth outpaces supply.
Of all the housing models, housing first, a version of permanent supportive housing, has the imprimatur of research demonstrating its effectiveness at ending homelessness. People experiencing homelessness are placed in a stable housing situation directly and provided with the services and supports to succeed. They do. Research additionally demonstrates that it is a money saver when you calculate the costs we otherwise are spending on police response, emergency services, jail time, ER visits, etc. We know so much more than we did in the 1980s and should be acting on it.
One piece of good news has been Homeward Bound’s renovation of the former Days Inn on Tunnel Road. When complete, it will supply 85 units of permanent supportive housing with services on-site. Such initiatives help to fill this critical need.
Let’s support and thank all of the homeless providers in our community. Let’s hope the city’s new commitment to personnel focused on homelessness will make a difference. Most importantly, let’s not forget that the 1989 mantra — Housing, Housing, Housing — is as relevant today as it was 33 years ago.
— Walt Leginski