by Holly Glen Gearhart
I have two growing concerns as a journalist and a Baby Boomer; housing and homelessness.
The latter is a paycheck away for seniors still working, and for many on Social Security, homelessness is one Congressional delay away. Millions had some retirement savings, or a family home they hoped to sell as their little nest egg, but many lost both their house and savings to medical emergencies with insufficient insurance.
On this page of the paper I am a journalist. I gather information from many verifiable sources and I pare down the rhetoric into (what I hope is) readable paragraphs that I construct to inform our readers.
On the opinion page I offer my opinion: the world as I see it, live it and the hope I have for humankind in the future, but the topic of housing and homelessness blurs the lines between journalism and opinion. How can so simple an idea, a roof over one’s head, be so controversial in the United States of America in 2013? How is it that we must discuss who we will allow to sleep on the streets and who we will bail out so that they need never know a night without heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer? The discussion leaves me breathless.
The need for adequate housing for those who can pay very little—moreover for those who cannot pay at all—is growing.
But there is perhaps a viable strategy. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, “There is a growing body of evidence that shows that permanent supportive housing is a cost-effective solution to chronic homelessness.”
The Homelessness Research Institute compared the basic costs of permanent “supportive” housing to homelessness without “supportive” housing. Supportive housing includes services beyond the scope of only housing an individual – it integrates social services such as food, clothing and mental health services. Social services support the individual in achieving employment and housing, and gives the recipient an avenue to become independent again.
The report found that “the increased cost of permanent supportive housing is more than offset by reductions in emergency shelter costs and behavioral health care costs (includes mental health care, substance abuse treatment and case management) in rural and urban areas and reductions in physical health care costs and hospital emergency room costs in urban areas.”
As a society we will be judged by our compassion for the less fortunate…a principal upon which our country was founded.