Is there an effective way to combat homelessness in America?

The Donlon Report

Albert Martinez, who has lived for 20 years on the streets of Los Angeles, sits outside his tent on a sidewalk in Venice Beach,California on August 12, 2021. (Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The senseless killings of Michelle Alyssa Go, Sandra Shells and Brianna Kupfer, which all took place across the country within the past week, are once again raising a red flag about the rise in violent crime and homelessness within America’s major cities. 

All three women were seemingly murdered by homeless men. A new poll released by the Menino Survey of Mayors on Tuesday found that 73% of mayors in the U.S. believe that voters hold them highly accountable for addressing homelessness, but only 19% think they have much control over the issue.

So how will America end homelessness? Political and social impact strategist Kristal Knight, who joined “The Donlon Report” on Wednesday, said throwing money at the issue won’t solve anything. 

“If you’re wanting to solve homelessness, you know, help the unhoused providing money towards mental health, you also have to address the chronic issue of people being on the street,” she said. “And that means there’s going to be a homeless shelter or some type of housing facility in a neighborhood where residents don’t want it. And so that’s the issue, as well. It’s not just the political will. It’s also people who don’t want it in their backyard. And that’s a challenge.” 

States and localities received more than $5 billion in federal stimulus money in the form of Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHV) and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) to help people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. As of Jan. 6, less than a third of the $4 billion in Emergency Solutions Grants had been spent nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A new report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness says people in families with children now make up 30 percent of the homeless population. The report was done in January 2020, right before the pandemic hit, but it still shows the prevalence of homelessness across the country. 

In order to combat the rise in homelessnesss, some cities including Colombus, Ohio, and Houston have implemented a “Housing First” plan, which prioritized giving people housing and help over temporary shelter. Former Texas State Rep. Rick Green said Houston has seen a big change in crime rates because they are cracking down on low-level crimes, not due to the Housing First plan.

“Houston has done much better than these other big cities across the country because of that “tough love,” Green said on ”The Donlon Report”. “So you got to stop the encampment, you got to actually put people in jail when they commit crimes, you got to stop releasing thousands of people from prison for COVID and other reasons.”

Although the cause of homelessness varies with each case, Green said it also comes down to getting treatment for those who are suffering from severe mental illness and substance abuse problems. 

“You’ve got to get to the human condition, not just the housing condition. Let the ministries, let the nonprofit groups do what they do best. We need more treatment, obviously. And really, that’s the secret.” 

Knight said she disagrees with putting more people in jail in order to combat the issue.

“Our jails are already over-incarcerated right now,” she said. “And we’ve seen a reduction in people being in jail because of COVID. So that’s not the answer.”

However, she does agree with Green that shelter-based programs and community health centers could help solve the problem. 

“I think the answer … or part of the answer is finding ways to address what are the chronic issues that people are facing in those communities. One of them is drug treatment programs. The other thing is community violence intervention programs. That’s something that the president has funded at the federal level, and states have to be willing to accept that money and give it to the cities that need it the most so that they can, you know, deter this crime wave that’s happening across the country.” 

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