Solving the Real Problems of the Homeless

Growing up in a suburb of our nation’s capital, I experienced the homeless nearly every day. My hometown city made Money Magazine’s list of the “100 Best Places to Live” in the U.S.,[1] yet homeless individuals asked my bus driver for money each day on my ride to and from school. How has the richest country on earth continued to allow such public misery, even on the streets of, and near, the very city that is supposed to create policy to help these homeless individuals?

Homelessness has had varying definitions across our nation’s history and is a complex concern that requires complex analysis. The assumed causes to the issue and the “achievements” believed to have been made thus far are only hindering the real solution to the problem.

The first true federal initiative to address homelessness was the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. The act gave federal funds to states and localities that had been spending their own tax dollars to serve homeless people, and required states without homelessness spending to create significant programs. Much of the money in the early years went towards renovating buildings as shelters, but also enabled services for the mentally ill, drug-abusing, or alcoholic homeless people. The Clinton administration added funding and helped facilitate coordination of community providers and the government.[2] However, after a couple decades of concerted action to develop homeless services, policy has simply made the homeless condition a little less onerous for people who find themselves in it, while doing fairly little to satisfy the base problem of those who are homeless.

This paper is addressed to the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development, within the House of Representative’s Committee on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs. While more recent strides have been made to improve the conditions of homeless in cities and surrounding suburbs, such as the District of Columbia metropolitan area, more policies and programs must be created to address the core deficit for those who are homeless – a lack of housing.

[1] “Washington DC Suburbs — Long & Foster.”

[2] Burt, Helping Americas Homeless.

Read the full paper: Addressing Homelessness In and Around our Nation’s Capital


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