When I was a Social Worker (for 5 years, in San Francisco) I worked with people that had been sleeping on couches and floors for years. And others that slept in cars along the side of the highway and drove back into the city during the day for services. Others still bounced from one hotel room to another as they could afford them, never staying more than a few days. Over the years I heard about too many less-than-humane situations to possibly recount. Many of these people were terrified of living in homeless shelters or staying on the street in a city where (in recent memory) homeless people had been stabbed and burned to death while sleeping. For that reason, none of them were considered homeless.

Federal regulations have, for years and years, required that a person prove they are sleeping on the street or in a recognized homeless shelter to be considered homeless. That standard excludes hundreds of thousands of people that do not have humane, reliable housing. Excluding them from the definition excludes them from receiving certain services, more importantly that under representation means that cities do not receive enough funding from the federal government to aid the true number of homeless people living in their confines.

Congress is now debating three bills that would change how “homeless” is defined. The most inclusive new definition of homelessness (the that needs to be accepted) would add a million people to the recognized number of homeless people in the US—more than doubling the current number of 700,000. The Bush administration supports a competing bill that would only expand the definition by a fraction of that amount.

ColinAsher

ColinAsher

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