In such a booming economy, why is homelessness spiking and affordable housing reaching a crisis in many U.S. cities?
Homelessness is not spiking everywhere, but I would say it’s the failure of housing policy and practice to adapt quickly to changing demographics and dynamics. Our work is focused on shifting mindsets about the nature of the problem, and building skills in communities that enable them to solve a problem that is not static or uniform in the way it is experienced by individuals and families, and requires disciplined coordination of effort and resources. That coordination calls for accurate and timely information on what is actually happening does our community have fewer people experiencing homelessness this month than last month? We now have the evidence that homelessness is a solvable problem. But communities need to think about housing as a system: how all the parts—zoning, land tenure, allocation of benefits, regulation of dwelling-unit types and use, plus code enforcement—can better fit together. Much of our work concentrates on helping communities learn how to organize themselves and use practices from other industries to encourage collaborative problem-solving. Most of all, an accountable group in each community needs to know who is homeless and who is on the verge of homelessness. They could bring the numbers down by aligning policies and practices to support connectivity between local agencies and various stakeholders.