Like most people living in our county I feel blessed to have a roof above my head and food on my table. I am lucky and I know it. Living here is a blessing many only dream about.
As I walk and see people sleeping rough or in tents or under overpasses I wrestle with a harsh reality that no matter how much money we throw at the issue we are failing, with unhoused neighborhoods moving into our cities, parks and parking lots and problems resulting as the unhoused by choice come into contact with other lucky people like me.
As resentment against the unhoused and their encampments grows and complaints escalate I am left to wonder how a nation as great as ours cannot seem to solve this problem – no matter how much money we throw at it.
After some research I found that one country, Finland, has managed to reverse the trend of homelessness within its borders – currently the ONLY country in the European Union where homelessness is in decline. The Finns have adopted a Housing First approach, where their social services people assign rental housing to their population first, THEN address issues with mental illness or addiction. Since the country started the program they have been able to reduce the number of homeless by 30%. Sleeping outside has been almost completely STOPPED in Helsinki.
With non-governmental organizations picking up some of the slack, providing “emergency” overnight shelter, food and showers to those destined to end up on the streets, the problem has subsided if not been corrected.
I know my letter may lead to naysaying but I would argue that at least one country appears to have found a way and is making it work for them.
We should be as lucky, and as willing to try.
Tom Wright/ Walnut Creek