We need to stay focused on the solution to ending homelessness. It’s housing.
Spending precious few resources on anything other than housing and the wrap around supportive services to help individuals and families move from homelessness to stable housing is a waste. We need community investment in programs and services that have proven outcomes. Only when we align all resources and systems on the solution, will we be able to benefit from the collective impact and end homelessness in our state. Public and private investments in supportive housing have long term positive impacts on preventing and ending homelessness.
According to the Center for American Progress, about 141,000 people live in economic poverty in Rhode Island. There are fewer than 40,000 federally-assisted housing units in Rhode Island. On any given day, there are about 1,100 men, women, children, veterans, and unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island.
These are not overwhelming numbers, and Rhode Island could be the first state to end homelessness – if we focus our resources on proven solutions.
| Kingstown Crossings in North Kingstown, Rhode Island is one of
Crossroads Rhode Island's permanent housing solutions.
Although more than half of Rhode Island renters are cost burdened, most economically poor people in Rhode Island never experience homelessness, are not in assisted housing, and are housed in the private housing market. The average rent in Rhode Island for a 1-bedroom apartment is $986. The maximum benefit for Supplemental Social Security Income for a single person is $735. (And a single person earning less than $990 a month is considered below the federal poverty level.) The average gross monthly wage for a person working full time in Rhode Island is about $1,535 per month. While affordable housing is scarce, most people figure out how to be housed without any additional financial support.
We do not need to end poverty in order to end homelessness - and we know how to end homelessness. Many communities across the country have recently ended homelessness for veterans and chronically homeless individuals. Those that have done so have something very simple in common.
They’ve focused their resources on housing first. Once an individual or family is housed, research and practice has proven that they are far more likely to succeed in improving the other aspects of their lives, like employment, education, health and daily meaningful activities. They may still live below the poverty line, but they are in a much better place to lift themselves out of poverty when they are sleeping in their own beds, showering in their own bathrooms, and eating in their own kitchens.
We cannot end poverty while there are individuals and families in homeless shelters or living on the streets. However, we can quickly end their homelessness – we just need to focus our limited resources on the only known solution: housing. Housing first.