What “Ending Homelessness” Means

LDN_CAReSMore and more the narrative around addressing homelessness is finally changing from one of “addressing homelessness” to “ending homelessness”. This is an important shift as our language establishes the outcomes we expect and anticipate. So much of our work from the 1980s until today has been band-aid solutions, providing comfort measures to those while homeless, food and shelter, yet has not necessarily addressed the root issue – lack of a home.

But indeed, you now see this shift in the language of service providers, funders, and governments. Plans to end homelessness, programs that end homelessness, and solutions focused around housing and housing first. This is a common goal and I believe it is a realistic one, and the right one to target. The issue is, what exactly do we mean when we speak of “ending homelessness”. Recall, of course, that the definition of ‘homeless’ itself is quite complex. We can all agree that someone sleeping under a bridge is homeless, and most understand shelters as still being homeless, but what about couch surfing? What about living with one’s pimp? Therefore, when we assess whether homelessness has been ended, we need to be clear what type of homelessness we are talking about.

For the most part, when we are talking about ending homelessness, we are talking about eliminating rough sleeping, reducing shelter usage (particularly chronic usage), and making affordable housing with supports widely available, reducing other forms of temporary stay such as cells or hospital. This idea of ending homelessness is well represented in the recent article of the work of London CAReS in London, Ontario. The article speaks to moving 100 individuals from states of chronic or persistent homelessness to being housed, permanently. This still requires high levels of service and support, but is far less costly than cells, hospital, or shelter. Also, most of these individuals were not rough sleepers, but were still considered homeless by any recognized Canadian definition.

This is why I believe ending homelessness is possible. Yes, we will always need emergency shelters as a point of transition for people who are de-housed, but these should only be needed for a few hours or days of other, more desirable (and less expensive) forms of affordable and supported housing are available.

2 thoughts on “What “Ending Homelessness” Means

  1. I don’t have my party hat on because I see that the shelters and crash beds are often times at capacity still most nights. It is nice one hundred people have stable housing but there is much work to be done. The city is eating and drinking the word housing these days but are expecting people to find housing on Ontario Works and ODSP shelter allowances and a room or some run down bachelor is not acceptable housing. As far as I see it London CAReS should not be wasting time with these celebrations because there is much work to be done and the work is not completed when they have only housed one hundred people. When the shelters start closing down because people are being housed suitably I will help blow up the Balloons for the celebration but now is no time to celebrate.

  2. Pingback: Crappy Little Homes for the Homeless | Abe Oudshoorn, RN, PhD

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