Boston Herald

Doubling down on failed approach to homelessne­ss

- By James Whitford James Whitford is the founder and CEO of True Charity Initiative, a nonprofit organizati­on that helps charitable organizati­ons implement programs that help people achieve independen­t lives./InsideSour­ces

In a largely symbolic resolution sponsored by Rep. Maria Salazar, RFla., in January, a bipartisan majority of the House voted to repudiate “socialism in all its forms.”

The resolution highlights the history of starvation, genocide and devastatio­n caused by socialist leaders and their policies — and the 328 lawmakers who voted in favor of it are now on record opposing the implementa­tion of such policies.

Yet, while Congress may be on record in opposition to redistribu­tionist policies, the “All In” plan from the U.S. Interagenc­y Council on Homelessne­ss, issued in December, indicates the White House may not be.

The council sets lofty goals for reducing homelessne­ss by doubling down on the failed Housing First program — something taxpayers have funded for more than a decade at a price tag exceeding $16 billion, only to see homelessne­ss increase. The Housing Council has acknowledg­ed that though “funding for homelessne­ss assistance has increased every year,” the unsheltere­d population has grown by a staggering 20.5% nationally.

The All In claim that housing is the solution to homelessne­ss reveals a failure to acknowledg­e the deeper issues, such as broken families, mental illness and addiction.

Going All In is a risky bet on a bad hand — and made more dangerous by betting with taxpayers’ money.

The president’s proposal attempts to justify the wager by playing on the fears of elderly Americans and their families by claiming that there is “no housing market in the U.S. in which a person living solely on Supplement­al Security Income can afford housing without rental assistance.” The truth is, only 1.8% of seniors are living on SSI alone — and for those who are, the average monthly SSI payment for an eligible couple is nearly twice that of the average rent in some of the nation’s most affordable cities.

Further, the president’s proposal supports increases in rental and utility assistance without income or asset verificati­ons. Programs like these trap individual­s in welfare at the taxpayers’ expense. Welfare expansion has a long history of compoundin­g our nation’s most pressing public crises, not solving them — and homelessne­ss is no exception.

In my community, the flow of stimulus checks, extended unemployme­nt benefits and housing assistance that resulted from the 2021 American Rescue

Plan Act perversely incentiviz­ed welfare over work. We now have a situation where most individual­s coming into our homeless mission in Joplin, Mo., tell our staff that they are waiting on a housing voucher and are less interested in offers for employment.

Regarding everything from “supply” to “compensati­on,” the word “increase” is used 51 times in the Homeless Council report. Increases not mentioned are those related to inflation, taxes and budget deficits that would ultimately come on the heels of expanding taxpayer-funded housing subsidies. Also not noted are the increases in generation­al poverty for families that will become indefinite­ly trapped in the welfare system. This, by definition, is socialism. It is horrific — and 328 members of Congress were right to condemn it.

Thankfully, there is a safer bet.

For more than two decades, our privately funded mission, along with a few hundred others like it across the nation, has been helping people escape homelessne­ss and achieve lasting independen­ce through relationsh­ip-building and accountabi­lity programs. Even better, privately funded missions like these and innovative private models such as tiny home communitie­s are less expensive and do a better job of compassion­ately helping our homeless neighbors.

This growing movement of private, compassion­ate, effective charity has the winning hand in addressing homelessne­ss. It’s time for the federal government to fold theirs.

 ?? JEFF CHIU, FILE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Though taxpayers have funded the Housing First program for years to the tune of $16B, homelessne­ss continues to increase.
JEFF CHIU, FILE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Though taxpayers have funded the Housing First program for years to the tune of $16B, homelessne­ss continues to increase.

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