Yesterday, I realized that there were three words which pretty much defined the core of my homeless advocacy. And they were the exact goals that were described in greater verbiage throughout federal and state guidelines. They formed the basis of the conversations I was having with my homeless friends, city and nonprofit agency staff, or lawyers and judges. We were all trying to improve the access, security, and opportunities for those without a permanent place to live.
We’ve seen the impact of NIMBYism restrict affordable housing development, and turn an element of the American dream into a nightmare. Lately, the alarming lack of access to permanent housing has found a voice in the public dialogue, and public incentives to the housing development community are being adopted to reverse the trend.
But reducing the price of housing isn’t all we need to do to address homelessness. An equally-important issue facing us is how we provide security in living environments for all people now. Judicial and governmental rulings recognizing the rights and value of a place to sleep, denied only through leaseholder-like violations, are the new standards called for in the State and Federally-adopted Housing First.
Finally, the full understanding of the personal barriers facing episodic and chronic homeless in their acquisition and retention of permanent housing has reinforced our convictions that we must fully integrate service and benefit opportunities into any solutions we implement.
In the implementation of HEAP, and any other initiatives we undertake to improve our efforts to address homelessness, we have to make sure we are providing full and fair access to our resources, are insuring the highest level of security against the loss of the living environments our clients obtain, and that we provide a wide variety and depth of opportunities to assist them to build self-sufficiency and self-improvement.