Experts discuss how to solve homelessness crisis in America

Morning In America

(NewsNation) — Homelessness is a pressing issue in America, with around 580,000 people experiencing it on a single night in 2020, a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found.

Inflation is only adding to housing insecurity across many communities. Rent increased by $15.5% in the top 50 metro areas in the month of May, according to Realtor.com.

But there are solutions people across the country are looking into to combat this growing problem.

RENT CONTROL AND SERVICES

Economist Rebecca Ryan said for those living on the margin, even $100 makes a big difference. So rent control is particularly helpful for residents. Legislation limiting rental rates is in 186 U.S. cities, Ryan said. Business Insider reports that rent control regulations are in place in five states, as well as the District of Columbia.

Municipalities should also tap into the U.S. Treasury Department’s emergency rental assistance program, Ryan said.

In Houston, public and private sectors are collaborating on ideas to solve homelessness.

Marc Eichenbaum, special assistant to the mayor of Houston for homeless initiatives, said the local nonprofits, business leaders, faith leaders and philanthropic leaders having one vision is what helped get 250,000 homeless individuals off the streets.

Donald H. Whitehead Jr., executive director for the National Coalition for the Homeless, said his organization is also looking into a comprehensive approach to structural issues causing homelessness in the first place.

“That’s the lack of affordable housing, income that pays a livable wage,” he said. “We’re also addressing civil rights, health care and racial equity.”

SOLUTIONS FOR VETERANS

According to the National Coalition for homeless veterans, nearly 13% of the homeless adult population are veterans.

A borough in Pennsylvania called Clarendon is helping homeless veterans by turning a defunct elementary school into transitional housing for homeless vets. So far, there’s been 20 rooms converted and furnished, with the project set to be finished by September.

NewsNation local affiliate WJET/WFXP reported that classrooms at Allegheny Valley Elementary School in Clarendon, which closed years ago, are being turned into cubicles with four bedrooms that include a door, dresser, bed and sitting chair.

Clarendon Mayor Tom Eaton, who also serves as president of the Allegheny Valley Veterans Center, said veterans typically stay in transition housing for about six months.

“It gives them the time to transition out of the military life,” he said. “Let’s get them back into society.”

When the building is completely rehabilitated, it will serve 32 veterans at once. Clarendon hopes to have all the rooms ready by September of this year.

STUDENT HOMELESSNESS

According to the National Center for Homeless Education, public schools identified more than 1 million students who experienced homelessness during the 2019 to 2020 school year.

This is an issue facing college campuses as well. At North Carolina State University, 15% of the student body faces some form of homelesnesss in a given school year. North Carolina State University Psychology professor Mary Haskett said some students can be one emergency away from homelessness in some cases.

The Housing Options for Students Today, or HOST program, at the university allows students to live with a local family so they can focus on their education, while also seeking stable housing, according to Raleigh Magazine.

Haskett, who directs the program, said students experiencing housing insecurity might not come forward because of the stigma attached to it. So, she said, HOST focuses on making sure they aren’t isolated by connecting them with families and building community between students in the program.

“One of the things we found in our research is that students who experience student housing insecurity are significantly more likely than other students to help others by providing transportation and sharing the housing that they do have,” she said.

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