In the News

In the News

Union-Tribune: Praise for Issa's Work To Reduce Homelessness

In The News
Aug 11, 2017

NOTE: "Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, deserves praise for courageously taking the lead to request Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson look at how Housing First impacts vulnerable populations — families and children — and how other approaches can work in tandem to overcome poverty and homelessness. He should be commended for taking action to prevent homeless programs across the state from being forced to shutter their doors, thanks to the new misguided guidelines."

More than one way to address San Diego homeless crisis
San Diego Union-Tribune
By: Chris Megison
http://bit.ly/2hS5q26

San Diego’s homeless crisis is growing worse by the day. Yet as more are living on the streets and fewer in shelters than ever before, some, including Michael McConnell who recently took to the Union-Tribune’s opinion pages (“Why the Housing First approach is a practical solution for homelessness,” Aug. 4) argue that the best approach to solving homelessness is to outlaw any program that doesn’t fit his particular recipe for success.

As someone who has served the homeless for more than 25 years, solving homelessness for thousands using a very different approach, it is hard for me to not take his criticism personally. It’s even harder not to call it out for it narrow-mindedness.

Homelessness is a complex problem with causes spanning the criminal justice system, mental health, substance abuse, family support, human connection, and other social and economic forces. Other innovative and replicable program models that work shouldn’t be kept out of the picture.

In his commentary, McConnell makes many mischaracterizations, claiming that progress in solving homelessness is jeopardized by “ill-informed politicians and agencies.” But what he gets wrong most of all is that no one is calling for an end to Housing First. Instead, what some are asking for is a simple request to include other high-performing results-driven approaches in our homelessness policy.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, deserves praise for courageously taking the lead to request Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson look at how Housing First impacts vulnerable populations — families and children — and how other approaches can work in tandem to overcome poverty and homelessness. He should be commended for taking action to prevent homeless programs across the state from being forced to shutter their doors, thanks to the new misguided guidelines.

At Solutions for Change, our programs our based on a 25-year personal empowerment and accountability model that puts the hard-to-serve homeless to work and is funded almost entirely by the private sector and social enterprise. Our approach adopts a completely unique model focused on a permanent solution to homelessness, not just a band aid of temporary housing.

Over 18 years, we’ve successfully led more than 850 families and 2,200 children out of homelessness and back on their feet. Yet, thanks to the misguided requirement that any homelessness program follow Housing First to be eligible for federal funding, we’ve been forced to walk away from as much as $600,000 in grants and our 40-bed family center now sits empty because Housing First rules require that we abandon our drug free housing and scrap our workforce training in favor of no-strings-attached optional programs.

When McConnell and other Housing First allies assert that their model works, they’re not talking about solving homelessness and its root causes. His goal is to getting people into “permanent” taxpayer-supported housing. They then offer Family Option Study as proof that families benefit from Housing First, but fail to mention how the very study also demonstrates that families in these programs experienced only temporary success because issues like employment, mental health and substance abuse were poorly addressed for the long haul.

Our approach uses work, education and employment to transform those experiencing homelessness. The families we help like this approach — they want to be supported, empowered and treated as valuable and capable. Central to this effort is a healthy and drug-free living community focused on keeping kids safe. Good programs like ours with a track record of success shouldn’t be shut out of the system.

This issue is about more than housing: It’s about saving the lives of kids and ending poverty and dependency. We know that the large majority experiencing homelessness can develop job skills, obtain work and pay for their own housing. We must do better than coldly pushing families and children into homelessness and insisting on only utilizing one way of solving homelessness.

The number of chronic homeless in the top four cities (New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Diego) has spiked with no signs of abating. McConnell and the Housing First advocates say that providing housing, supporting sobriety, training for employment and engaging the root causes of homelessness is “outdated, ineffective and wasteful.” What’s “ineffective” is choosing to punish homelessness programs based on their approach, rather than on their results.

Homelessness reaches far beyond any single cause and our homeless policy should be big enough to support more than any single solution.

Megison is president and CEO of Solutions for Change.

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