Homelessness is a state of affairs in which an individual lacks a place that he/she calls home. It is a major problem in the United States because of its profound effects. The issue disturbs policy makers because of its vast effects that affect nearly every person in society. It is also true that deformed policies are some of the causes of homelessness. The existing policies do not address the problem of homelessness in the US.
The government spends many resources in resolving issues related to homelessness. People spending their nights in the cold are susceptible to diseases such as tuberculosis. They are also affected by nutritional deficiencies such as gastrointestinal disorders. Furthermore, the affected individuals are prone to mental illnesses (Herbert, 1976). Many homeless people have complained of physical and sexual assault.
The state spends many resources in curing such diseases and disorders. Moreover, maintaining security is costly because of street dwellers. This calls for policy makers to come up with policies that would allow the state to plan effectively.
This paper evaluates the existing policies and suggests a policy that would solve the problem. The existing policies are not well positioned to handle the problem. The policies have been overtaken by events because the issue should be handled logically.
Overview of the Problem
The US supports the Universal Rights, which state that each person must be provided with shelter among other basic needs. The constitution was adjusted in 1949 to cater for the needs of the poor in society. The 1949 Housing Act asserted that each person should be assisted to acquire a decent home.
The Act made it illegal for any person to be denied housing rights on allegations of race. Each person was to be provided funds to acquire a place that he/she could call home. Unfortunately, the two policies have never solved the problem of housing in the US.
The US government withdrew support of the mentally challenged in 1970, which increased the number of homeless persons. In 1980s, the number of homeless persons skyrocketed mainly because the state transferred federal dollars to a big military buildup. The funds were transferred to sustain the Star Wars, which was completely unsuccessful. In 1986, Americans joined hands to support the internally displaced and homeless persons. Subsequently, the government came up with McKinney Act, which permitted the state to fund housing projects for the poor.
The housing department, together with the McKinney Act attempted to solve the problem but in vain. The project could not sail through due to some reasons. The government policy makers never involved all stakeholders in designing the policy.
Homeless persons were not involved in decision-making, making it hard to implement the project. Furthermore, there was lack of good will from politicians and senior government officials. This served as a lesson to policy makers because policies are never implemented without informing all stakeholders.
Several policies have been designed to combat the problem of homelessness in the US. In 1980, the government established a kitty that would supply funds to the homeless. In 1984, shelters were constructed and food was provided to the poor.
The program was religious in nature because people were supposed to attend church services in order to be fed. Homeless persons were supposed to be hosted for some time then send back to the streets. The McKinney Act came in to solve the problem having been considered a national social problem.
The program was never successful prompting the state to establish another Act referred to as No Child Left behind Act in 2001. The act prohibited schools from discriminating homeless students. The Bush regime came up with a Chronic Homelessness Initiative program in 2002.
The project aimed at eliminating homelessness before 2012. The program was adopted by the national agency in charge of homelessness referred to as National Alliance. The new agency was renamed National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH). Various agencies declared their intentions to end homelessness.
Bush announced that his government was committed to end the problem. In 2003, the Interagency Council designed two plans that could end homelessness. The first one was Ending Chronic Homelessness through Employment and Housing. The program aimed at offering jobs and houses to the poor.
The government provided vouchers to the neediest families in order to acquire basic needs. However, the policy was affected by economic recession because it was based on money. In May 2009, Obama endorsed another policy that was supposed to end homelessness.
The policy was termed Homeless Emergency and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH). The policy was not new because it only adjusted McKinney policy. The policy created by Obama regime created a Rural Housing Stability Program and amended policies within HUD.
Weaknesses of Existing Policies
The political wings of government created the policies meaning that they only existed as long as those who formed them survived. Once a new government comes in, the policies are changed even before their missions are accomplished. This was a big problem because the policies are not fully implemented. Many homeless people are left stranded because each policy comes with new regulations and rules.
The way government implements policies leaves a lot to be desired. Street dwellers are forced to vacate their places without guaranteeing them safety. The state only responds to public outcries instead of researching on the problem to gain more insight.
Bush responded to the issue because the public was tired of the beggars. This implies that policies made are hawkish in nature. Another problem is that the state does not consult other stakeholders in order to solve the problem jointly.
Strengths of Government Policies
The state has an upper hand because all state machineries are under it. Private sectors would find it hard to force homeless persons out of the streets because they do not have legitimate monopoly of using force. The government can solve the problem if correct policies are designed.
Furthermore, state polices are more inclusive because they address the whole issue. Non-governmental organizations address few issues such as providing food only. They always feed the poor but they do not have the capacity to provided housing.
Homelessness is a complex issue that requires the action of big organizations such as the government. The Bush policies could have solved the problem if his government had been in power until 2012. The only problem is that governments are temporary. Obama’s policies may succeed if necessary measures are put in place.
Many policies have been designed to end homelessness. Unfortunately, the policies have failed to solve the problem. The problem could be solved by providing permanent housing to the affected persons. This would allow them to move out of poverty. Many organizations are currently focusing on prevention instead of simply providing emergency shelter.
The state must also follow the same example in order to end the problem. In other words, the government must focus on the McKinney project by moving to implement its tenets. McKinney project is a federal law that seeks to solve the issues related to homelessness hence capitalizing on it would be constructive.
In particular, the government needs to focus on providing employment to the affected citizens instead of providing food on a temporary basis. For this to happen, the government and other stakeholders must involve local authorities in implementing McKinney policies. This comes after realization that most homeless individuals qualify for several types of public assistance.
The role of policy makers in government should be to coordinate activities by referring homeless persons to relevant programs (Kraft, & Furlong, 2010). Policy makers must form a local interagency coordinating organization that can influence important players to act. Afterwards, the government can move on to link up agencies such as those in charge of literacy programs, mentally ill programs and community-based programs.
For any project to flourish, research is critical. The policy makers must conduct studies to establish existing gaps in order to understand the character of homelessness. This would help them to identify the neediest persons and prioritize on programs to be offered.
Furthermore, policy analysts can establish some best ways of implementing a program. For this to happen, the staff should be experienced and highly trained. This implies that the exiting staff should be evaluated in order to come up with a clean team that is dedicated to solving the problem.
Even though various stakeholders might be having relevant skills, the government must provide some basic training before programs are implemented. Service providers should be urged to integrate homeless policies to their usual programs. This would create a continuum in the project.
The Obama government came up with a strategy aimed at solving homeless through establishing rural programs. For such a program to flourish, the homeless persons must be given temporary shelter because rural homelessness is normally short lived.
Strengths of the Policy
Placing the homeless persons under a permanent housing program would solve problems that previous policies failed to address. This program would allow policy makers to keep in touch with services such as job training (Radin, 2000).
Obviously, clients would start from a scratch meaning that offering them services such as credit counseling and financial management skills would be resourceful. In this regard, the tenants would be equipped with skills for solving problems, which would further reduce risks of eviction.
Permanent housing program would also allow policy makers to follow up on the status of their clients. Previous policies failed because clients were not visited frequently to determine their status. The policy makers withdraw support after imagining that their clients were stable.
This generated more problems because such clients went back to streets. In other words, tracking the progress of clients is important in determining the successfulness of the policy. Furthermore, it allows policy makers to explore more on the problem. For all this to happen, the government must draft a plan that enlists clients to be served. In other words, the policy should have phases because not all people would be settled at the same time.
Herbert, S. (1976). Administrative Behavior (3rd ed.). New York, NY: The Free Press.
Kraft, M., & Furlong, R. (2010). Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives (3rd ed.). New York, NY: CQ Press.
Radin, B. (2000). Beyond Machiavelli: Policy Analysis Comes of Age. Georgetown: Georgetown University Press