Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ending Homelessness - the Right Thing to Do, in a Smart Way

“Heading Home Minnesota” intends to eliminate homelessness in this state. Jim Frey, of the Frey Foundation, recently wrote that this initiative is “not just right, but smart”.

Why “smart”? He mentions several reasons. Among them: a) The design of the initiative derives from knowledge of what works; its designers paid attention to research. b) It stresses collaboration. No one sector can solve the problem – business, government, nonprofits, and community residents, including homeless individuals themselves, must participate in the solution. c) The initiative stresses a three-pronged approach: prevention, supportive housing, and outreach.

Wilder Research has worked in partnership with other organizations and groups to address homelessness since the early 1980s. Currently, our Homeless Management Information System provides information and insight on the system of services which the state’s homeless access. Our once-every-three-years homelessness survey (to occur in fall of 2009) provides in-depth knowledge about the conditions of the state’s homeless residents. Through both of these tools, Wilder Research has influenced policies and funding in ways that will benefit homeless individuals and families, Minnesota’s taxpayers, business owners, and pretty much everyone in the state. We will continue to provide this information – to ensure up-to-date understanding of homelessness issues, to promote accountability, and to monitor our communities’ progress – until someday, hopefully, we and others will work ourselves out of a job.

I suspect that Heading Home Minnesota will make progress; it might, or might not, completely achieve its goal. Regardless, we will learn more about what can work. We will learn how to spend money more wisely. We will learn how to collaborate more effectively – as institutions and as individuals. As Jim stated, “Our public and private investments must be productive. We should be investing in a system that promotes education, employment, health and responsibility among homeless children, youths, and adults. This is what homeless people want for themselves. This is what we want for our communities. This is what we need for our future.”

See Jim Frey’s full essay: Heading Home Minnesota – not just right, but smart

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