The Covid pandemic is exposing cracks in numerous public systems—including health care, finance, and housing. In fact, says Rosanne Haggerty, founder of Community Solutions and a global expert on homelessness, the three are closely linked. Before Covid, homelessness was an epidemic on its own. Now, with 40 million Americans newly unemployed, a crisis looms, and Rosanne sees a historic opportunity to end homelessness once and for all. We spoke with her about the challenges and opportunities facing America, and what new mindsets are needed and possible.
Rosanne, you have been working on homelessness for 30 years. How are you approaching this moment?
We’re looking at this moment as an opportunity to design homelessness out of existence.
We’ve long seen homelessness as the visible indicator of a broken public health system, broken civic infrastructure, and governance failures. If these systems and institutions were working effectively, we wouldn’t have persistent homelessness and we certainly wouldn’t regard it as normal.
Covid-19 has revealed, for all to see, the breakdowns that the existence of homelessness was warning us about all along. Now that we’re facing a national project of building a new public health infrastructure, and evolving institutions and governance models to handle the current and looming crisis, we can make eliminating homelessness an explicit goal of this project, and a measure of whether it’s succeeding.