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Preventing People from Becoming Homeless

Homelessness is not a simple problem affecting some but is a complex housing issues that has many causes, solutions and outcomes.  It is our responsibility as residents of Delaware to address the causes of homelessness in our State and to develop the solutions to address this issue.      

Typically when we think of homelessness, we think of people who are living on the streets, in their cars, or people who are in shelters.  It is also true that when we provide services to the homeless we typically think about getting people who are not currently housed – housed.  When we try to treat homelessness by housing people we run into many challenges.  One challenge is that we currently do not have enough shelter beds in Delaware to meet the needs of all of those who are homeless.  Another challenge is that for some people they become ‘stuck’ in the revolving door of homelessness and have a difficult time getting out.  And with the economic challenges facing all of us we are seeing more and more people becoming homeless and there is very little to stop them from coming in the front door of the system.

It is time for us to take a lesson from public health.  We have learned from every public health issue that we need to not only intervene and treat a problem but also to prevent it from happening.  If we don’t stop people from becoming homeless (stop them from coming in the front door of the system), then we will never be able to end homelessness.  One of the solutions to ending homelessness is to stabilize people who are living in community-based housing so that they can stay in that housing.

Throughout the country, we have many different types of cash financial assistance programs.  In Delaware, we have quite a few community-based organizations, churches, and state service centers who offer one-time cash financial assistance to persons who are at-risk of losing their housing.  The difference between these programs and homeless prevention programs is the focus.  Cash financial assistance programs focus on alleviating a crisis.  Homeless prevention programs focus on providing services and financial assistance to keep people stably housed for the long-term.