Fight homelessness, not homeless

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 22 Jun 1998 08:12:07 -0700 (PDT)


FWD  June 22, 1988 - Philadelphia Daily News - Opinion

     FIGHT HOMELESSNESS, NOT HOMELESS

Philadelphia's new, euphemistically titled "quality of life" ordinance
demonstrates that tolerance for the homeless is at a low ebb.

Never mind that most of them are women and children; rather than ease their
plight, we'd like the "street people" to just disappear.

While aggressive and abusive panhandling should be stopped, prohibiting
sitting or lying on city sidewalks is a desperate attempt to sweep
homelessness out of sight and out of mind.

Desperate -- and destined to fail.

According to a new report on homelessness from the Greater Philadelphia
Urban Affairs Coalition, a nonprofit organization of community and business
leaders, it will take more money, far better coordination and a deep,
sustained commitment to change to eliminate homelessness.

But "Our Way Home: A Blueprint to End Homelessness in Philadelphia," says
it can be done. It outlines what's needed to clear our streets of broken
bodies and lost souls -- and turn them into civil, self-sufficient and
productive citizens.

The "blueprint" calls for coordinated and sustained outreach to steer the
homeless to shelters and assistance programs to address addiction, mental
illness and illiteracy; a tracking system to integrate and coordinate
services and prevent recidivism; designing and funding shelter,
transitional and permanent affordable housing options to fit individual
needs; strengthening job-readiness and training options; development of
more entry-level jobs and affordable, quality child care.

In a city where a minimum-wage worker would have to toil for 103 hours a
week to afford the $689 a month fair-market rent on a two-bedroom
apartment, it is easy to see why the marginally employed wind up homeless.

The most striking aspect of the "Blueprint" are the examples of success --
like 22-year-old Kelly Stancil and her daughters. Not long ago, Kelly --
now a full-time file clerk and receptionist -- was an abused child, a teen
mother, an addict and homeless. With hard work and sustained help from the
People's Emergency Center, she has turned her life around.

In a preliminary audit of city services to the homeless, City Controller
Jonathan Saidel has found poor record-keeping and chronic failure: Up to 65
percent of those in shelters leave only to return in two years. Along with
the new "quality of life" ordinance, Saidel's findings should spark outrage.

As many as 25,000 people in Philadelphia are homeless over the year -- some
6,500 on any given day.

It's time to muster the will and the resources to change that.

END FORWARD

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