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We Don’t Need to Wait on Congress to Fight Homelessness


We Don’t Need to Wait on Congress to Fight Homelessness

James Abro

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, “On a single night in January 2014, 578,424 people were experiencing homelessness—meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or a transitional housing program.”

It is clear from the numbers alone that in communities across America—including where I live in Ocean County, New Jersey—federal, state, and local public housing assistance programs are not reaching nearly enough people.


Just as there are those that argue that population numbers are the quintessential problem, rather than how food and goods are distributed; there is no actual shortage of housing... it's how that asset is also "distributed."

Were there a tax on Wall St. transactions that was safeguarded specifically for a fund that would purchase vacant properties for the purpose of housing the homeless, fewer persons would be living "in the woods" or under bridges.

Or a $3. fee could be applied when anyone renews their license or annual car registration.

Recall how many homes were rendered homeless when Wall St. enacted its massive fiscal gymnastics taking the financial cream off the top (with the help of its elected enablers) and leaving previous homeowners out on the streets?

As many writers have exposed, the gap between the rich and poor has widened to the point that's reflective of the era of Feudalism.

It is a moral sin that individuals can own more than nations; or that a handful of families can commander enough funds to easily house entire communities.

Priorities must alter along with those with the power to enact them!


"It occurred to me that if they were stray animals, I could have brought them to a half dozen shelters where they would be taken in and cared for, no questions asked. But in my county, not only is there a shortage of affordable housing, there is not a single emergency shelter for homeless people. This is the reality in too many communities across America. It is not only painful to witness, it is also completely unnecessary."

Hard to top this for cutting to the chase.


Excellent piece by Mr. Abro. There is a homeless shelter where I live, it is open September through May, However, some of the homeless have mental health issues. One young man I talk to almost every day in a local park refuses to go to this shelter. He assures me that when the temperatures really drop he "has options," he doesn't. Somehow he makes it through northern Illinois winters, outside--amazing. However, he is living on the edge.


Except that many shelters kill the animals based on either unadoptability or having been there too long, and the no kill shelters are often too full to take any in (esp during kitten/puppy season). But point taken.


I too have been homeless, with two small children. I have been a Food Stamp/Medicaid Caseworker and the first Supervisor for the First low boundaries Winter Shelter in Bloomington Indiana. Our Churches banded together in 2009 to form the Winter Shelter for those who could not get into our more long term (3 mo) Shelter.To be admitted over night the (single) person had to be sober. For our Low Boundaries Shelter, they had to be able to walk through the doors and not be belligerent. We had too many guys lose toes and feet to frost bite. The Police didn't quite know how to handle it, which led to some interesting situations. It is just for the Winter months and floats between church buildings on a daily basis.
Section 8 is used a lot for Homeless Vets, with VA Caseworkers. We built an apartment building for those who were more long term homeless. Turnover is a problem. Many of my homeless people are mentally ill and don't adjust well to their own apartment after the Winter is over. Families who are homeless get on a waiting list for a group home setting that is geared to moving them into their own apartment in low income housing or get them on Section 8. We only have room for 3 families. The waiting list for Section 8 in our county is about 2 years long, but much shorter than other places. Our motels are filled with families who live there long term, many of them are on Social Security.
The Community Mental Health Center runs programs to contact the homeless mentally ill and get them on Social Security and off of the streets. Thing is,with all of our resources, our community still has several long term Camp sites around town, just like you described.
All I can say is find a Grant Writer, that is how we have done it. The City does not fund our efforts.


Just reading these comments and what I see daily I don't think the number given in the article is accurate -it has to be much higher. The same with the unemployment number -it dose not add up. If this unemployment number was below 5% the economy would be booming-and I am not seeing this. How many people are denied assistance because we are told the "economy is great"? And nothing makes me more mad is when I see Obama praising himself over the "great economy". All cities and towns should be required to provide assistance to people who are hungry and homeless. Cut one jet fighter from the defense dept. and set up a jobs program hiring unemployed to build affordable housing-there is an easy fix if you want one. The homeless are there to keep us wage slaves living in FEAR!


i worked until my retirement as a clerk-receptionist in a clinic that provided services to the mentally homeless. They are a difficult population to help because there is very little sympathy for them. I remember Ronald Reagan saying that "a lot of them are, shall we say, homeless by choice." He and his ilk believe that homeless people are living the life of Riley, getting free government money and laughing at all those fools who work and pay taxes to support thrm.

What they don't know is that financial aid is hard to come by and isn't all that much money when it is got. There was General Assistance, the low end of the welfare spectrum, which was not enough cash to do much beside buy booze. It was easy to get kicked off the roles through some violation of the rules for qualifying. Then there was Social Security Disability Insurance which was complicated to apply for and required a verifiable medical and psychiatric diagnosis with a number listed in the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual with supporting paperwork. Even with the assistance of skilled social workers applications were often denied requiring applying again.

SSDI is the program most despised by the Reaganoids, the one (along with TANF) they most want to see eliminated, Do that and the worst case mentally ill homeless will commit clumsy crimes in order to eat (and drink and take drugs ), die on the streets. or overcrowd the already overcrowded jails. Anyone who things they're getting an easy free ride through life and could, if they wanted to, clean up, behave properly, get jobs and become self supporting tax payers, stop being Mitt Romney's "takers" is wrong, cruelly wrong.