“Remember when dealing with big organizations, most notably the government, that slow movement is a feature, not a bug.”

~Christopher Wink
____________________________________UnshelteredCritical Issue #8:  Slow motion crisis response
Three Realities that make progress on homelessness so slow and costly

  1. We are in a housing crisis and suffering the long term effects of poverty and inequity. Reframing this as a “homelessness crisis” shifts our thinking away from solutions into perpetual “management” of the problem. Decades of short-sighted policies at national, state, and local levels have gutted low income housing stock. We cannot rebuild this overnight. Replacing the public housing we squandered will be much more expensive in today’s economy.
  2. Finding a safe place to sleep may be perceived as a crisis by a person escaping freezing weather or other dangers related to being unsheltered. In that situation we quickly do whatever it takes to survive or to ensure the survival of someone we care for. Government agencies – in contrast – are not built for rapid response*; action requires funding which typically requires a proposal, feasibility studies, planning, budgeting, public input, pilot projects, assessments/reviews, recommendations and sometimes- if this all took a while – a new proposal.
  3. Homelessness in the US grew last year for the fourth year in a row. People are entering homelessness in greater numbers and affordable rental options are evaporating. Years of pretending we will somehow pull a “decent” home for everyone out of thin air have left us empty handed in terms of safe campgrounds or sites for people living in vehicle homes. If you question the value of a dry tent or vehicle against the coming winter – imagine the winter without even that small measure of protection. Pierce County is ramping up efforts in these areas – but – we need to work together and work quickly. 

*exceptions to this are emergency response teams for fire, natural disasters, etc. where the action is typically intense, swift, and of relatively short duration.

What can we do to reduce response time for critical needs?

  1. Support the efforts of local nonprofits, social service programs and faith-based communities that are addressing homelessness. Small groups are usually more nimble and can fill in some gaps while larger organizations and initiatives navigate the road to funding.
  2. Tell your representatives that we need a working 20 year plan, a ten year plan, and a short term emergency response ALL at once rather than one at a time. Remind them that similar plans were approved by their predecessors. Were these plans good?  implemented? effective? put in a drawer?
  3. Act as if someone who is out in the cold this winter is a family member or a friend (maybe they are)

More about the housing crisis and the slow motion crisis response

  • Housing needs by state/Washington (2021 NLIHC)
  • As Coronavirus Magnifies America’s Housing Crisis, FDR’s New Deal Could Offer a Roadmap Forward(Time, 2020)
  • Slow Democracy: local decision making that is inclusive, deliberative, and citizen-powered is not easy and definitely not rapid,

Ideas for Pierce County? Bring them to the Tacoma/Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness – let’s solve this.*yes, the pun was intentional – I can’t help myself.

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