Good Intentions Do Not End Homelessness: What We Must Learn From a Baby Named Hope

Her name is Crystal Champ.

One week ago, however, during the State of the Union address, she was reduced to “a pregnant homeless woman preparing to inject heroin.”

It is rare that homelessness or addiction find themselves in the spotlight of a national speech. But there were Ryan and Rebecca Holets, the adoptive parents of Crystal Champ’s baby, seated next to the First Lady.

The story goes that Officer Holets encountered Ms. Champ while on patrol with the Albuquerque Police Department. He told her she would harm her baby if she continued to use. “She told him she didn’t know where to turn, but badly wanted a safe home for her baby,” President Trump recounted. Officer Holets returned home to his wife and told her this story, and they decided to pursue adopting the child.

The Holets’ did adopt the baby, and named her Hope. She was there in her adoptive mother’s arms, right beside the First Lady. We never learned her birth mother’s name, though, or what became of her after her interaction with Officer Holets.

In his address, President Trump said that “the most difficult challenges bring out the best in America.” This is surely true of the Holets family, whose act of kindness helped provide safety and stability for this child.

But kindness is not a scalable intervention. Good intentions do not end homelessness. Housing does. And connecting vulnerable children — and their parents — with a safe home should not have to fall on the shoulders of good-hearted citizens alone. The most difficult challenges may bring out the best in American citizens, but they must also bring out the best in America: bold, federal interventions to end homelessness, accessible treatment for people with opioid use disorders, and real solutions to poverty.

We know that housing is healthcare. We know that the stability of a home ensures the best outcomes for people living with addictions. We know that proven, best practices include: access to safe, low-barrier emergency shelter; a path to permanent housing; and quality health care with immediate access to life-saving substance abuse treatment.

Homelessness and addiction are not intractable problems. While they are not easy to solve on the individual level, we know generally what works. Unfortunately, these solutions are chronically underfunded. In fact, federal homeless assistance grants will require significantly increased investment in the 2018 budget just to keep up with rising demand for services.

If we really care about Crystal Champ and other families in similar, devastating, situations then we must continue to prioritize and sufficiently fund effective interventions.