The White House Council of Economic Advisers’ recent report, “The State of Homelessness in America” reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of homelessness, the programs that end homelessness, and the people who experience it. The authors cast doubts, refute progress, and offer disparate theories, while offering no realistic solutions.
Homelessness is a crisis in America, for the people who experience it, and for the communities they live in. It demands an urgent and immediate response locally, and from our federal leaders. But that response must be an educated one, rooted in the practice, research, and key learnings of communities that have been doing this immensely difficult work for decades. They have learned, the hard way, what works — and what doesn’t work. This evidence should be the foundation of any federal initiative to help solve the problem.
Unfortunately, this report misrepresents key programs for ending homelessness, ignores the vast evidence base to support best practices, and overstates the potential of deregulation as an answer to the nation’s affordable housing crisis. In doing so, it discounts the hard-won successes of communities large and small, urban and rural, and those with Democratic and Republican leadership. It is a simplistic response to an extraordinarily complex issue.
“If the Administration wants to make a dent in homelessness, it could really scale up what we know works: making major investments in affordable housing, increasing resources for programs that are proven to connect people with housing and services, and providing access to surplus federal properties for communities that need expanded emergency shelter capacity,” said Nan Roman, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “We may not know everything, but we do know that people who have a home aren’t homeless. Communities across the country have learned how to get people back into homes faster and more efficiently. The Administration should support that work.”