Although research has provided best practices and guidance on effective interventions, there is no “silver bullet” to ending homelessness. The issue is multi-faceted; individuals and families who are homeless range from those experiencing short-term money issues to others with lifelong incapacities from poverty, mental illness, drug and alcohol use, deinstitutionalization (the right of those with disabilities to live in the least restrictive environment), incarceration and unemployment. To date, recommendations include a combination of interventions including prevention, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing.
Not everyone living on the streets wants to move indoors, but the overwhelming majority do. Woodland police officers on the Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) and their social service partners have found that more than half of those living on the streets have asked for help with housing. Others make different choices after establishing trusting relationships with police officers and outreach workers, resulting in their eventual request for housing and accompanying services. The smallest group, approximately 10 percent, remain steadfast in their desire to continue to live unhoused. These individuals can benefit from ongoing outreach services and check-ins as to their health and well-being.
What we do know is that no single person or no one community organization can solve homelessness. The most effective strategy to making headway on this complex social issue is to strategically and collaboratively work together. Government, faith-based organizations, businesses, schools, and residents are all needed to work toward housing for all. This is accomplished by taking steps incrementally over time to increase housing and service options for those chronically homeless and preventing homelessness whenever possible for those already housed.
Policy and housing experts concur that prevention is a critical part to eradicating homelessness. Strategies that keep people housed or return them to housing quickly, such as rapid re-housing programs, are an essential component to turning the curve on homelessness. While difficult at times to dedicate limited funds to keeping people housed when people currently unhoused require immediate attention, prevention efforts avoid the high costs of returning individuals and families to housing once homeless.