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Obama to end homelessness?

September 08 2010
US government aims to end homelessness among veterans and the chronically homeless by 2015

The UK has a long-standing pledge to end rough sleeping by 2012, cynically in time for the London Olympics, but now those across the pond have announced their own target date to get people off the streets.

On 22 June 2010, the US government released a new national strategy which aims to end homelessness among veterans and the chronically homeless by 2015, and among children and families by 2020.

A 67-page document detailed plans to expand social housing projects, particularly for war veterans and families with young children, plus additional measures to support long-term rough sleepers.

President Obama's move is a change in tack from that of his predecessor George Bush, whose policy focused on the most entrenched and vulnerable rough sleepers, rather than all of those without housing.

The new measures aim to improve links between housing agencies, mental health and substance abuse programmes so that the various and complex needs are met quickly. The Obama administration believes that stable shelter is the first and most crucial need, and having this, in turn, helps individuals to work out their other problems.

It is estimated that roughly two million people experienced homelessness in the US last year, but the majority were short-term, just a few days. Some 112,000 people in the US are described as 'chronic homeless', having slept rough for over a year.

No additional money has been set aside or budgeted for the scheme. The administration seems to hope the billions of dollars already set aside by federal agencies will be sufficient for it to succeed. However, the Washington Post reported that critics feel a larger financial commitment to housing assistance will be needed to accomplish the objectives. "The administration does call for some added vouchers, which is terrific," Elizabeth Lower-Basch, senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, was quoted as saying. "But even if it's fully funded by Congress, it still would only reach a small fraction of those who are potentially eligible for housing subsidies."