Here at the Alliance, we like to say at homelessness should be rare, brief, and non-recurring. For many people who experience homelessness, this is true. But for 15 percent of the homeless population, the opposite is true: they experience homelessness repeatedly and/or for long periods of time, and they have a disability (such as serious mental illness, chronic substance use disorders, or chronic medical issues). These people are chronically homeless.
People experiencing chronic homelessness tend to be the most difficult to stably house and, as a result, are the most vulnerable people in the homeless population. Many communities, with the support of the federal government, have targeted interventions toward chronic homelessness in the past decade. Research shows that most effective intervention to end chronic homelessness is permanent supportive housing, which combines stable housing with supportive services.
Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time conducting Rapid Re-Housing Clinics for communities across the county. Rapid re-housing is an intervention that provides temporary financial assistance and services to homeless people to return them to permanent housing quickly. Many communities around the country are already using it to house people. But it’s a relatively new idea.
At the clinics I conduct, which are designed to help communities implement their own effective rapid re-housing programs, it’s not uncommon for people who are new to the idea of rapid re-housing to view it with some skepticism. It makes sense. They have been doing things one way for years, and now they’re being asked to change. Who wouldn’t question the wisdom of that?
Have you heard of the #WithTheseHands campaign? It’s part of a national initiative to raise awareness of the issue of veteran homelessness and the fight to end it. (The campaign takes its name from the final verse of the Bruce Springsteen song, “My City of Ruins.”)
The people behind the campaign are Give US Your Poor, which is a group dedicated to bringing together homeless organizations, celebrity advocates, and people like you to end homelessness. With this latest campaign, they’re using music and art to dispel myths, show support, and foster action on veteran homelessness.
Sadly, if you have served in the military, you’re more at risk of experiencing homelessness. Why?
A variety of factors are at play, so there is no one fast and easy answer for why veterans experience consistently greater rates of homelessness than the general population. But one major factor is combat-related disabilities like traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which are among the most significant risk factors for homelessness.
Five years ago, a young high school student that Kirsten was working with on a theater project revealed to her that he was homeless and completely on his own. It was one of those moments in life when everything just stopped — how could this be? This kid was bright, talented, funny, and ambitious. He was going to school, attending rehearsals, and seemed so normal. But each night he didn’t know where he was going to go.
He was working hard to make something happen for himself while being alone in an impossible situation, and he was going to great lengths to hide his circumstances. For us, he put a completely unexpected face on homeless youth. And when we discovered that — at that time in 2009 — there were almost fifteen thousand kids registered as homeless in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system, we knew we had to make this film. This was a crisis and nobody seemed to be talking about it.