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A New Way on Homelessness

The United States has a growing homelessness problem — and bad policies at the local, state, and federal level exacerbate that problem.

For nearly two decades, failed, ideologically driven policies promulgated by HUD and embraced by local bureaucrats and activists have resulted in more and more spending on homeless services — for worse and worse results. That must change.

The Cicero Institute offers the strongest reform package to state leaders who want to fix bad incentives, hold service agencies accountable for results, and get the homeless the help they need instead of doubling down on failure.



1. States should ban unauthorized street camping.

Street camps are dangerous to the public and the vulnerable homeless alike. They are often hotbeds of violence, especially against women and children – especially those who are homeless themselves

The public widely supports enforcing ordinances against dangerous street camps and moving individuals into emergency shelters.

2. States should direct funds away from expensive and ineffective “Housing First” programs toward short-term shelter and sanctioned, policed encampments.

Since the mid-2000s, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the vast majority of homeless services agencies and NGOs, have endorsed the “Housing First” model of providing free housing to the homeless.

It requires between eight and twenty units of “Permanent Supportive Housing” to get one chronically homeless person off the street. This is untenable as a solution. Instead, states should pursue minimally viable shelter options and sanctioned encampments with services.

Permanent supportive housing doesn’t address homelessness – it creates demand for more homelessness and supports cronyism.

3. States and cities should pay non-profits for performance, not just services.

Performance-based contracts should be the standard in public contracting, and especially for homeless services. Instead of paying non-profits based on the amount of services provided, some or all of the contract should be contingent on the performance of the provider.

Today, even when contractors are clearly failing on metrics they continue to get public funding. The public expects results; accordingly, the public should pay for results.

4. States should amend civil commitment laws to make it easier to help those who cannot help themselves — and keep them out of prison.

Many street homeless suffer from chronic and untreated mental illness. For those that are a public nuisance or a danger to themselves or others, there must be a third option besides prison and abandonment.

By providing options like assisted outpatient treatment, which is a less restrictive alternative to inpatient treatment, states can let judges get people the help they need — and respect their due process rights.

Check out our new documentary Homelessness: The Reality and the Solution

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