Presentation Title

A Brief History of Chronic Homelessness in the United States

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

Chronic homelessness has become an established part of the American landscape over the last four decades. Housing First, an approach to ending homelessness that centers around providing housing to those experiencing homelessness quickly without time limits or conditions, has been gaining prominence since the 1990’s as an effective resource for managing chronic homelessness nationwide. Success of the Housing First approach has been primarily measured in resident retention rates and cost-benefit analysis while limited attention has been given to the experiences of those being housed. In particular, research on the experiences of community within single-site supportive housing modeled in the Housing First approach remains underdeveloped, and the perspectives of residents remains marginalized in the policy discourse.

To address the dearth of resident perspectives within the literature as well contribute to the policy discourse, I collaboratively involved staff and residents of St. Mary’s House – a local single-site supportive housing program, in a project designed to understand how sense of community is created within this housing model. During this process I became particularly interested in understanding the nature and “normalization” of chronic homelessness. In this presentation I share my research on chronic homelessness, specifically focusing on the contemporary history of homelessness through three chronologically ordered timeframes, in which I argue that the construction, proliferation, as well as current strategies of management, have been widely shaped by neoliberal economic policies. I propose that the national approaches to ending homelessness, such as Housing First and permanent supportive housing modeled it the Housing First approach, serve to manage the consequences of institutionalized neoliberal policies rather than ameliorate the structural inequalities that continue to reproduce chronic homelessness as a phenomenon.

Start Date

6-5-2017 10:00 AM

End Date

6-5-2017 10:15 AM

Location

Miller Hall

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May 6th, 10:00 AM May 6th, 10:15 AM

A Brief History of Chronic Homelessness in the United States

Miller Hall

Chronic homelessness has become an established part of the American landscape over the last four decades. Housing First, an approach to ending homelessness that centers around providing housing to those experiencing homelessness quickly without time limits or conditions, has been gaining prominence since the 1990’s as an effective resource for managing chronic homelessness nationwide. Success of the Housing First approach has been primarily measured in resident retention rates and cost-benefit analysis while limited attention has been given to the experiences of those being housed. In particular, research on the experiences of community within single-site supportive housing modeled in the Housing First approach remains underdeveloped, and the perspectives of residents remains marginalized in the policy discourse.

To address the dearth of resident perspectives within the literature as well contribute to the policy discourse, I collaboratively involved staff and residents of St. Mary’s House – a local single-site supportive housing program, in a project designed to understand how sense of community is created within this housing model. During this process I became particularly interested in understanding the nature and “normalization” of chronic homelessness. In this presentation I share my research on chronic homelessness, specifically focusing on the contemporary history of homelessness through three chronologically ordered timeframes, in which I argue that the construction, proliferation, as well as current strategies of management, have been widely shaped by neoliberal economic policies. I propose that the national approaches to ending homelessness, such as Housing First and permanent supportive housing modeled it the Housing First approach, serve to manage the consequences of institutionalized neoliberal policies rather than ameliorate the structural inequalities that continue to reproduce chronic homelessness as a phenomenon.