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We can end homelessness, and therefore we should

World Homeless Day reminds us that it is possible to end homelessness.
  |  October 10, 2020
  • Tenth anniversary of World Homeless Day provides us a chance to reflect on how we can solve homelessness.
  • Our current global pandemic changed the urgency with which governments and leaders across the world view homelessness and what can be done to house our homeless neighbors.  
  • This pandemic has taught us that we can end homelessness, if we work together and believe it is achievable.

For many of us, 2020’s cascade of compounding horrors has exposed with breathtaking rapidity the fragility and contingency of our stable existence on this planet. For those of us who spend our days and nights working to end homelessness for good, this year has also brought with it definitive proof of what we have always believed: That the biggest barrier standing between us and a world without homelessness is our desire to make it so.

Across the world, from the United Kingdom to Australia to the United States, governments and philanthropies banded together in the early days of the pandemic to get as many people indoors as possible as fast as possible. The United Kingdom put more than 5,000 people in hotels essentially over a weekend. Hotels aren’t housing, to be sure, but even hotels were hard to come by before the world turned on its head.

On this, the tenth anniversary of the first World Homeless Day, let us affirm that homelessness is both a symptom of other social maladies and a debilitating experience in its own right for those who live through it. And let us also be clear that the cure for both these faces of homelessness — the personal and the social — is contained in the name of the problem itself. 

Homelessness is the symptom and the disease. Homes are the cure.

Safe, stable, and affordable housing keeps people already in housing from entering into homelessness, and safe, stable, and affordable homes ends homelessness for those without a home. 

Through the work of the 13 American communities who have reached a measurable, sustainable, end to homelessness as part of the Built for Zero initiative, we have learned that lasting solutions are possible when community leaders harness their collective will to tackle the problem at hand. Through the work of dozens of partner communities using the same methodology in Canada and Australia, we’ve learned that that success need not be bound by borders. In 2021, we expect to celebrate the first community outside of the United States to end homelessness through the Built for Zero initiative.

The world we seek is possible, if we’re willing to work for it. We have proved this year that we can put thousands of people in hotels when we believe our safety demands it. Let us act in 2021 on the demands of our conscience as well as our safety. Let us end homelessness for good by coming together to provide housing for all who need it.

Each of us learned, early in life, that we have a responsibility to those around us: to our families, to our friends, to our neighbors, and to our communities. The pandemic and our response to it have taught us that we can move mountains together if we try. For those of us in this work and those experiencing homelessness today, yesterday, or tomorrow, the mountain ahead of us is clear. We can end homelessness, and therefore we should.