When Howard Dean was governor of Vermont, he did some research and discovered that the cheapest and most effective way to deal with homelessness was to give people homes, a policy that he instituted in Vermont. My friend Pete, who was homeless in Gainesville for many years,
expressed the same theory in a letter to me, that I am going to share with you:
"It is noble to feed, clothe and provide other basic necessities to people in need to enable them to better cope with day to day survival. Food solves the hunger problem, clothing solves the nakedness problem, etc. But homeless people need homes. Simple, but it never seems to be dealt with on that level (or if not never, way too seldom).
"There are billions of government and charity dollars spent annually (much of it misspent) on 'poverty.' There is Habitat for Humanity for underemployed and/or overly 'prolific' families. They build these people permanent homes. There is enough tax and charitible money to provide permanent housing for most of the true local homeless. Some homeless have mental issues which would require more than just a livable home. A few people actually choose to be homeless (not many).
"Some of Gainesville's so-called homeless are truly 'transients' who are just passing through or taking a 'hobo vacation' from the winter up north. These people could be dealt with by being allowed to camp temporarily or staying at a transient shelter (such as St. Francis House or the Salvation Army). Many homeless are able-bodied or otherwise employable, have long-time connections to the community, but are prevented from 'pulling themselves up by their bootstraps' by impossible living conditions which keep them tired, infirm, unhygienic etc., and make them less capable. Permanent housing could fix this for many (I have done, a-hem, personal research in this).
"I'm all for feeding, clothing, giving sleeping bags, hygiene items, medical care etc. to homeless and needy folks. But, ONLY HOMES WILL SOLVE HOMELESSNESS. The 'powers that be' are extremely adverse and averse to GIVING people homes. But many
otherwise capable people are totally or greatly incapacitated by homelessness (a major hurdle is to convince the Powers that Be, that they won't be killing the 'Protestant work ethic'). It could definitely be done without spending more money. Just a different direction with the
same amount of funds. And there would be hope of people actually becoming more self-sufficient."