Homelessness must not exist in the United States!!
Homelessness in the US has been increasing at double-digit rates in many cities. As policy makers, we must examine the root causes and create a national policy to eliminate this suffering within our nation. Large metropolitans like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley can’t afford to let their cities deteriorate. We have the capability and means to help homeless get back on their feet and become dignified part of thriving societies around them. As a humanitarian potential policy maker, I have practical solutions that can be implemented in cooperation with the cities and states. Please join me to take care of this important issue for our nation.
Millions of immigrants come to this country every year to establish a home. They come because the United States provides an unequaled economic opportunity for them. In the same country, where we have such large amount of resources, we let over 600K unfortunate homeless souls suffer. Why? What are leaders doing to put an end to homelessness? Almost nothing!
Out of about 600K homeless people, California hosts about 150K, a very disproportionate number. Large population of homeless people live in the metropolitan areas – NYC has the largest at 80K, and Los Angeles has about 66K. San Francisco, Santa Clara County has about 8K homeless people each.
The saddest part is that 40% of the homeless people are youth under the age of 18.
There are various causes identified in the studies conducted over the past decade or so. Major causes are: Job loss, alcohol and substance abuse, family disputes, mental health (only 7%), physical health, and incarceration (12%).
Only about 40% of the homeless are in shelters, where the conditions are pretty horrific and paperwork for admission is cumbersome.
Today, the responsibility to remedy homelessness primarily rests on the county or the city. Therefore, it has been tackled in a haphazard way. It should not be left just at local levels to take care of our suffering populations. This results in deterioration of our large metropolitans. What we need is to understand the problem at deeper levels and correct policies to eradicate this blight on our nation. Consider the following that happened in our Silicon Valley in the recent past.
Between 2007-2012, Santa Clara County spent $3B, or $500 million per year, on homelessness issues. Majority ($1.9B) of the money was spent on medical expenses, and approx. $0.8B was spent on Justice system related issues for the homeless people. Top 5% (2800 people) of the homeless people cost the most; about $83K per year. This is an amazing amount of wasted money that can be utilized in a better way, and still take care of homeless situation.
Root causes: For us to eliminate homelessness, we have to examine and understand the root causes of the problem. It turns out that most of the homelessness is due to job losses and alcohol or substance abuse which can be a result of a job loss. Many of these situations can be rectified within short period of 3-6 months. I intend to introduce bills where job loss related affordable housing rental projects become tax exempt. I will support similar measures from the State.
Expand on Job Loss Protections: For people who lose jobs and succumb to alcohol abuse, and become homeless, they should be encouraged to enroll in tax-exempt affordable housing developments, and must participate in remedial programs at the same time. I will also examine feasibility of tax-exempt temporary job programs for homeless people who are then able to look for permanent jobs. A skills retraining program with nationwide job search programs would be helpful in reducing homelessness.
Family Stability and Youth Job Training Programs: For people who are homeless because of family disputes, particularly the youth who are neglected or abused, we need to promote children’s original family support and safety-net ideas, and modify or supplement the foster care programs. It is critical to enroll all affected youth in skill-training programs with job internships, so they can be independent when they
leave their parental homes or foster care homes. If they choose not to be in foster care, then a well run living and schooling facility for these homeless youth must be considered. We can’t let our youth go without care and guidance until they are well prepared to take care of themselves. I will sponsor such Federal programs and implement with the cooperation of the States.
Mental health Programs: Mental health is a great challenge for our communities. We need Federal and State level cooperation and funds to create well-run places attached to the local hospitals to take care of our mentally ill homeless people. They need clean, hospitable places to live, and not be left on the streets where they catch illnesses and end up in emergency rooms all the time.
Post Incarceration Job Programs: Lastly, people who come out of incarceration have a stigma and have hard time finding jobs. We can’t let these people live on the streets and fall prey to gangs and commit more crimes. We need job programs for ex-incarcerated people. It maybe that federal govt., cities and counties govt. employ them in some safe starting jobs, train them, and over time they can gain dignity to be part of the larger society. I will sponsor such programs nationwide.