Friday, September 23, 2011

The End-All Ain't Gonna End It

So, here is why HUD's end-all to solving the homelessness problem, Permanent Supportive Housing, will NOT end homelessness.

Reason One: The requirements of eligibility for Permanent Supportive Housing i.e., persons with mental or physical disabilities, and chronically homeless individuals and families knocks at least 80% of the homeless population out of the running for housing. The chronically homeless make up only 10 - 15% of the total homeless population, and yet currently receive 90% of services. There is something wrong with this equation!

Reason Two: Permanent Supportive Housing does NOTHING to plug the pipeline into chronic homelessness i.e., homeless teens and young adults, teens aging out of foster care and the juvenile justice system (up to 38% of whom will be homeless at least once in the two years following emancipation). 95% of teens and young adults are NOT chronically homeless (on the street for at least a year or 4 homeless episodes in the past 2 years), and we do not want them labeled as such; BUT they WILL be if they are not assisted now. Additionally, most teens do not qualify as disabled (thank heavens!), and we don't want them labeled as such. The teens at Promise House are in school, working, raising kids, and functioning in the world. But they wouldn't be without our help.

Reason Three: Teens and young adults have very different needs than do chronically homeless adults. They need a phased program that moves from fairly high structure and supervision all the way to independent living, which includes housing and support services. You can't just stick a teen in an apartment, or give a teen a housing voucher or 3 month's rent, say "Go be successful", and expect success.

The only way to truly stop chronic homelessness is to plug the pipeline into it. If you were to ask 20 chronically homeless adults if they were homeless as teens or young adults, at least 15 would say yes.

I don't know why this is such a difficult concept to get. Maybe when the "end homelessness by" deadlines pass and there is still homelessness, folks that make the funding decisions will scratch their heads and wonder why.

Maybe they should ask me.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Echoes From Our Children

It's awesome and a bit scary to see your children speak out on issues about which they are passionate. I have two daughters, both of whom are extremely articulate, are passionate about many causes, and who sounded off recently about the Texas Legislature cutting funds to Planned Parenthood. My oldest, Kat, wrote a commentary on her website, and my youngest, Leslie, posted an article from the Austin paper, adding a few choice words, which I won't repeat here.

Both girls were raised in diametrically opposed environments---liberal feminist with their mother and conservative conservative with their dads. What this forced them to do was forge their own beliefs from the two, which they did very well. Lucky for me, their beliefs landed much closer to mine than their dads' (LOL!). This is not to say, however, that they track right down the line with my beliefs. Leslie, for instance, was heavily influenced by her church experience and holds very different beliefs from me about all that. Kat, on the other hand, is even more "radical" than I on many issues and is totally unafraid to speak out uncensored about them.

What we are very close in belief about, however, is women's health. Kat has used Planned Parenthood most of her adult life for low-cost well-woman check-ups, birth control, and treatment for female ailments. Having had no insurance since graduating from college, PP was a godsend for her. So, to lose that resource is devastating to her. Although Leslie has never used PP, many of her friends have, for the same stuff that Kat did. What none of them has ever used PP for is abortions.

But I am not here to debate that issue. What I am here to say is how strange it is sometimes to hear echoes of my voice in my daughters' fearful I am sometimes for them for speaking out.....and how aware I am that they are so much more politically savvy, so much more aware of what's happening in the world, and SO much more willing to speak out about it than I was at their ages, that I often stand in awe of both of them.

It has often been said that our children reflect both the best and worst of us. I think I lucked out with my girls. They seemed to have gotten the best of both their dads and me. And though it is a little scary to see and hear them stand up, speak out, take the heat for their beliefs, when I hear those echoes, it does my heart good to know they GOT what I wanted them to get........their OWN, strong voices.