Around this time of year pundits start writing their top ten lists, as if every American really needs to know who the ten most influential, best looking, most powerful people of the year are.
Do these lists really have an impact on our personal lives?
With homelessness still rampant throughout our country, a top ten list about how this country is working its way toward ending homelessness certainly affects most Americans.
Here are the Top Ten Steps this country made toward ending homelessness in 2012:
10. Social Impact Bonds (SIB) are changing the business of ending homelessness. It used to be that charities would beg for money through direct mail pieces. With SIBs, private investors put their resources into social programs. If the programs succeed, the investors get their money back with interest. It’s a new way of funding charitable programs, and a new way of defining “return on investment.”
9. Changing the definition of homelessness. This year, the federal government changed the meaning of “homelessness,” expanding the definition and consequently providing more homeless Americans with access to federal resources — like families living in motels or individuals staying on friends’ couches.
8. Preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place is cheaper than waiting to help until after they end up on the street. Although the government’s Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) ended this year, it prevented one million Americans from becoming homeless.
7. Obamacare = Homelesscare. The Supreme Court upheld most of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which means homeless Americans will have access to Medicaid (healthcare programs) in 2014.
6. Homeless youth became a national priority when the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness created a strategic plan specifically for this population.
5. Veteran homelessness is decreasing. With the U.S. government seeking to end veteran homelessness by 2015, the numbers are going in the right direction whether the goal is met in time or not.
4. America’s “ground zero” of homelessness, also known as Los Angeles, is getting its act together. Most experts have acknowledged that America’s homelessness problem cannot seriously be addressed without housing L.A.’s more than 50,000 homeless residents. The local United Way and Chamber of Commerce joined forces to create “Home For Good,” a heroic plan to realign the area’s resources to better help people experiencing homelessness. And it’s working.
3. The most expensive Presidential election in history ($2 billion!) just ended. Some experts link the reduction in charity giving to election cycles, because people would rather give to their favorite candidate than to charities. With the election over, Americans can refocus their monetary contributions on social good.
2. Prioritizing America’s most vulnerable has become the standard. A few years ago, the term “vulnerable” was not in a homelessness agency’s lexicon. This year, the 100K Homes Campaign has nearly reached 25% of its goal to house 100,000 of the most vulnerable homeless people in America. The effort has radically changed the way homelessness agencies decide who needs to be housed first. Of course, it should be those who are the most vulnerable.
1. Compassion is back. When a NYPD cop was photographed buying shoes for a lone, shoeless man on the sidewalk, his act of compassion went viral. The NYPD Facebook page received 320,000 new likes, 77,000 shares, and 20,000 comments. After three decades of homelessness in America, are we ready to turn our compassion into ending homelessness for good?
In 2012, we made many small steps. Let’s hope that 2013 becomes one giant leap toward ending homelessness in our country.