Giving Compass’ Take:
• Here are three strategies that communities can promote to make inclusive public spaces for homeless populations.
• How can donors support community-led strategies to housing issues?
• Read more about homelessness here.
Trina lost her home in rural Virginia when she left an abusive relationship. After also losing her car and her job, she began living outside. She and a new partner were staying in a field one day when they found police confiscating their belongings, including their sleeping bag, clothes, Trina’s diabetic meter, and her art supplies. The police told them to move along, or else they’d be cited for trespassing.
“You have to keep moving.… They call the police on you because you’re loitering,” Trina said in a phone interview.
COVID-19 has made it even more difficult for Trina to find somewhere to go. She recently tried finding a place at a shelter and working with a housing support service, but neither had capacity to help her find housing.
In communities that lack adequate safe emergency shelter or affordable housing, people who are unhoused have few options other than living in public spaces. But they are often denied this last resort when other residents call the police or a city enforces ordinances making sleeping outside illegal.
A more effective long-term solution to homelessness is providing access to housing through a Housing First approach. Depending on a person’s needs, that could be rapid re-housing, which offers short- and medium-term support, or permanent supportive housing, which delivers services and an ongoing subsidy. But while access to housing is being expanded, communities can take a more inclusive approach to supporting people living unsheltered and improve everyone’s quality of life through three key strategies.
- Make public space work for all community members
- Educate the public about causes of and better ways to address homelessness
- Create alternate ways to report concerns about homelessness that don’t involve police
Read the full article about promoting inclusive public space by Katrina Ballard and Samantha Batko at Urban Institute.
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