Thursday, March 16, 2006

Getting real about homelessness

Seattle, like Orange County and a couple hundred other cities and counties, has signed on to project of ending homelessness in 10 years. They adopted their plan last summer; ours is still in the making. The report from Seattle is not promising.

"The intent here is to end homelessness," says [Philip] Mangano [the Bush Administration's point man for the 10-year plans].
Such talk is now accompanied by $4.1 billion in the 2007 federal budget for homeless programs. But these programs don't cover medical needs or fund much housing. And in the same budget, the Bush administration cut about $3 billion from Medicaid, which provides much of the health care for America's homeless, and cut federal housing dollars by $600 million.
"You can't fill a $52 billion hole with $4.1 billion," says Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, a San Francisco–based group, referring to the generation-long gap in federal public-housing spending.
And local governments like the city of Seattle and King County will be left to deal with the inevitable result.
"The feds are making our job much harder," says Seattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis. "We are getting doublespeak from the Bush administration."

The news is no better in North Carolina, where the state is "divesting" itself of mental health services.

The steering committee for the Orange County process meets next week. They're going to be reading Malcolm Gladwell's good New Yorker article on strategies to deal with homelessness. Sooner or later, they will need to read this grim report from the front lines in Seattle.

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