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Homeless Advocates: Federal Government Should Fund Permanent Housing

August 22, 1988

ATLANTA (AP) _ The federal government should help fund permanent, affordable housing programs to accommodate street people because emergency shelters have failed to curb the number of homeless, researchers said.

The homeless should have access to the more affordable housing to ease dependency on crowded, understaffed shelters, according participants at a seminar Sunday at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

The plan originally adopted by advocacy groups called for crisis services in emergency shelters, helping homeless people re-establish their lives, and supplying low-income housing for those who could live independently, said Madeline Stoner of the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work.

But that plan didn’t work because many homeless people have turned the temporary shelters into ″a permanent living situation,″ Ms. Stoner said.

″Shelters have not only failed to stem the growth of homelessness, their existence has served to perpetuate the homeless condition by keeping many in a transient state,″ she said.

″The three-tiered plan was a major mistake,″ said Anita L. Beaty, executive director of the Task Force for the Homeless, an Atlanta advocacy group.

Advocates and agencies should turn from shelter-oriented services and concentrate on serving as many as possible at a low cost, actively recruiting businesses to improve employment opportunities and strengthening vagrancy and public nuisance laws, Ms. Stoner said.

″Any consideration of constructing a non-homeless future shifts the focus ... from shelters to explorations of permanent housing,″ Ms. Stoner said.

The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates there are two to three million homeless people in the United States - with women and children comprising about 60 percent.

Los Angeles and New York have the highest number of homeless people, with about 50,000 in each city, Ms. Stoner said.

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