Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Plan for Homeless Hits against `Fatigue' BEYOND SHELTERS

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Plan for Homeless Hits against `Fatigue' BEYOND SHELTERS

Article excerpt

ACKNOWLEDGING the complexity of problems among homeless people, the Clinton administration has proposed a $1.7 billion solution aimed at cutting the number of homeless by one-third.

With a "continuum of care" approach, the administration wants to meet the housing needs of the homeless and provide specialized social and health services.

For years the stereotype of the homeless in the United States was a disheveled man standing on a street corner with his hand out, or waiting bleary-eyed in line at a soup kitchen.

But over the last decade, jobless parents with children, divorced women, able-bodied veterans, the mentally ill, and many elderly became homeless as a result of roller-coaster economic and social changes. Also affordable housing became scarce. Add to this the men and women with persistent drug and alcohol problems. In 1987, the Urban Institute estimated that some 600,000 Americans were homeless, although an accurate count of the homeless in the US today remains difficult.

According to US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary Henry Cisneros, in announcing the new Clinton plan last week, "as many as 7 million people may have been homeless some time in any five year period." The administration plan, breaking from the concept of homelessness as primarily an "emergency" problem, would have local governments, federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and shelters bring a coordinated effort to the problem.

But many cities, disturbed by the growing aggressiveness of some homeless, adopted anti-loitering laws. These cities include Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

"People saw the homeless as temporary when it really began in the recession years of the Reagan years," says Bill Ayres, director of World Hunger Year in New York. …

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