Justifiably concerned about this massive increase in homelessness, funders have been pouring resources into preventing homelessness, creating affordable housing and moving people from unhoused to housed. These are essential investments. By contrast, funders often view streetside services as a Band-Aid—a stopgap measure that fails to address underlying causes, or as an emergency service. From the perspective of those on the street, however, resiliency care can be a pathway that launches people toward a better life.

That’s particularly important while the housing reality is so at odds with the ideal. There isn’t enough transitional or permanent housing, and the housing choice voucher program (also known as Section 8) receives limited funding. In many cities, it can take months or even years to move into a home.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, families must wait an average of two and a half years before they can get a voucher. In San Diego County, California, that wait can be more than seven years. In Miami-Dade, Florida, it’s often eight. To get an idea of the unmet need, consider Riverside County, California: It has 68,000 families on its waiting list and funding to assist only 8,500.

Stark as those numbers are, they don’t come close to illustrating the full need for housing. Many housing agencies have closed their voucher waiting lists altogether. A 2016 study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that 53 percent of voucher waiting lists were closed to new applicants.

Even transitional housing and shelters are hard to access in some places. Callers to the City and County of San Francisco’s 311 hotline for temporary shelter, for example, are now greeted with the message that the shelter reservation waitlist is no longer available, due to COVID-19 concerns.

People need services whether they’re housed or not

While people wait for housing, they need access to resources so that they can eat, bathe, and receive other care services. Mobile showers, food pantries, and streetside case workers are vital to meeting those needs.

Read the full article about street-level services for unhoused people by Kris Kepler at Philanthropy News Digest