A couple of weeks ago the City of Boston had a round table conversation with the press to let us all know that due to their efforts chronic homelessness in the city has been reduced by 20 percent since 2016.
If yours truly had been present at this conversation, those government employees would have gotten an arched eyebrow followed by a very loud “EXCUSE ME?!”
According to the City, of the 612 chronically homeless individuals accounted for in 2016 only 76 remain homeless today.
Again: EXCUSE ME?! Of course the City is basing its findings on the very narrow-minded definition of HUD’S idea of what chronic homelessness is. Chronically homeless people, as defined by HUD, are “individuals with a disabling condition who have been homeless for one year or have experienced homelessness four times within three years.”
This definition is so divorced from reality that it’s almost impossible to fit this criteria if you’re homeless.
I also feel like it’s easier to get help if you’re in a shelter, and as you know, a lot of people choose not to stay in the shelter system for many reasons. Shelters are prisons, that you can leave in the morning. There is always the threat of abuse especially for women, LGBT people, young people, and other vulnerable groups.
The system itself is lethargic and broken, and when it comes to actually helping people, well, let’s just say that the system doesn’t always employ the best people.
Another major issue with HUD’s definition of the chronically homeless, is that couch surfers are not counted among them, even if they’ve been doing it for years. They aren’t counted during those so-called homeless census counts, nor are they on any priority housing lists. Let’s be clear: homelessness is homelessness – period. Whether you stay in a shelter, sleep in the street or stay on someone’s couch, it’s all people without housing.
The City would also like you to know that while Boston has seen a decrease in its chronically homeless population, the nation’s has increased. They mention this as if to say the city has things well in hand.
Anyone who’s actually working with the homeless will tell you things are not going so smoothly. Hell, you don’t even have to work with the homeless to tell that things aren’t what they seem. Just take a walk around the city, almost everywhere you go you will see homeless people. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the City and its partners are making an effort and think they’re making a difference; but reducing the homeless population by 20 percent? I doubt it.
I also can’t help but notice the seemingly political motivations behind this little conference, which comes on the heels of the story about homeless people living in storage facilities on Boston’s Mass. Ave. A press conference from the City can’t make that story go away. Homelessness is still here, and regardless of what the City of Boston says, it’s not going away anytime soon.