What is Homelessness?
According to the United Nations, homelessness can include many conditions ranging from “rough sleepers” (i.e. people sleeping on the street) to people living in inadequate or insufficient housing (i.e. people living in tents) to people in temporary or emergency accommodation (such as homeless shelters) to “hidden” homelessness (like those who are “couch surfing” or living with friends or family. Article 11 of the ratified United Nations International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, section 1 states, in part, that the covenant recognizes the right of every person to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing, and housing.
Alongside the United Nations and myriad other organizations, Time For Homes takes positive measures to improve the living conditions fo homeless people with a view of facilitating their full participation in society and to prevent and eliminate homelessness, as well as to combat and eliminate its criminalization.
Time For Homes has a broad, inclusive definition of homelessness in order to mitigate the risks of inequality, exclusion, and discrimination against those who may need specialized assistance such as people living in vulnerability, in slums, or those facing forced eviction.
Homelessness is living in severely inadequate housing due to a lack of access to minimal acceptable housing. Homelessness is one of the most acute forms of material deprivation.
Homelessness refers to the inability of people to enjoy a permanent accommodation.
Homelessness often means lacking other basic human rights, such as the rights to: work; healthcare; social security; privacy, and education.
Homelessness is both a cause and a symptom of human rights being denied, abused, and violated. It is one of the most visible and most severe symptoms of the lack of respect for the right to adequate housing.
Housing Is A Human Right
We recognize housing is a fundamental, human right. Adequate housing is essential to one’s sense of dignity, safety, inclusion, and the ability to contribute to the very fabric of our society. Without appropriate housing, it is often impossible to attain and maintain sufficient employment, to recover from mental illness or manage other disabilities, to integrate into the community, to escape physical or emotional abuse, or to provide for the health, safety, and comfort of children.
Many of us take for granted the security that having one’s own bed to sleep in, a roof over one’s head, a place where one’s person and possessions are safe. Unfortunately, that is not the reality for far too many of our neighbors. It is the most vulnerable families and individuals in our communities who bear the human toll of inadequacies in how our society approaches housing and social services.
Housing Is Healthcare
By using a housing-first and a housing-is-healthcare approach, Time For Homes is able to ensure government funds—federal, state, and municipal—are efficiently utilized and should provide real cost savings to governmental and non-governmental partners.
What We Do
Time For Homes resides in a relatively niche space in the landscape of organizations working to end homelessness. We are not a provider of direct services. We are not, strictly speaking, an advocacy group nor are we a lobbying organization. That leaves us to define what we are—and why we feel that this is the space to occupy. We are somewhere in the middle of all those.
Time For Homes partners with an ever growing number of service providers—offering a platform for collaboration (to build, refine, prove, and promulgate best practices); a community for networking; and a number of scalable services (from communications support to data analysis and myriad other areas) to help those organizations achieve their missions.
This area is in a constant state of capacity building—so we are always open to a conversation of what else we can do to work together efficiently and effectively. Time For Homes works with a number of government officials, legislators, and the like to support and advocate for effective policy. Time For Homes actively encourages public participation and education about the issues of and relating to homelessness. It is only with a multifaceted approach, bringing to bear the expertise of an extensive network of partners, that we can hope to achieve systemic, sustainable, surviving societal change.
Outside of the overarching goal of ensuring adequate, permanent housing is available for everyone. Time For Homes wishes to:
Foster Sense of Community.
For all of us, especially those facing housing insecurity, a sense of community is vital to our well-being. We are working to actively promote this sense of community.
Take a Whole-Family Approach.
Every individual is different. Every family is different. Both are important. This is part of the reason we believe in working with the whole family to ensure everyone has the resources they need for a lifetime of success.
Secure Access to Healthcare.
Housing itself is a type of healthcare, but beyond that medical care, dental care, and mental health are urgent needs for most people in the vulnerable populations we serve.
Ensure Access to Transportation.
A place to sleep isn’t enough if you can’t get to work or make your way to a grocery store. Time For Homes lends its support to initiatives focused on mass transit, ride-sharing, etc.
Alternatives to Traditional Housing.
We recognize that not everyone wants to live in a house or an apartment. As such, we are working to find solutions that work for these individuals and their communities. What does that look like? We’re still figuring that out, but we are discussing the use of certain categories of public lands for camping or even homesteading.
Ensuring Housing Remains Available.
All the good intentions in the world don’t matter if there simply isn’t a housing unit available. That’s why we support fair legislation that covers stability in rent, common sense zoning regulations, and removing discriminatory practices in housing.
Offer permanent housing, first.
It is unrealistic to think you can solve individual challenges, whether they stem from physical or mental health issues or educational gaps or something else, while someone doesn’t even know where they will sleep that night. Time For Homes strongly advocates a housing-first model of intervention and support. To tackle a problem at this scale we need to ensure all new developments, without exception, provide a sufficient quantity of affordable housing and will accept tenants through this program.
Core principles of this program are:
Immediate Access – individuals and families are not required to first demonstrate that they are ‘ready’ for housing
Unconditional – housing is not conditional on sobriety or abstinence
Respectful of Choice – program participation is also voluntary
Self-Determination – this is a rights-based, client-centered approach that emphasizes client choice in both housing and support services
Recovery-Oriented – not simply focused on basic needs, this philosophy is dedicated to supporting longer-term recovery
Integrated – recognizes socialization and community are key, this philosophy provides opportunities for social and cultural engagement as well as recreational and vocational activities
Housing First can be considered a best practice after ample demonstrable successes in the United States, Canada, and Europe. That said, we face many challenges. Some of the most significant are Complacency and Funding.
We face significant resistance from institutionalized inertia—after all, homelessness has been a problem for ages and we’ve thrown massive sums of money at the problem. Various agencies are resistant to change—the landscape is pretty clearly defined, and the entrenched stakeholders will be wary of supporting a push for such systemic change.
Providing trauma-informed supportive resources.
When someone has been failed at such a fundamental level by society, it is extremely likely that longer-term support will be necessary to allow them to realize their potential. To that end, Time For Homes and our community-based partners will offer necessary services, such as health services and job placement, using a trauma-informed methodology and caseworkers empowered to develop bespoke resources for program participants.
Trauma-informed care is a strengths-based framework that is grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma, that emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both providers and survivors, and that creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.
(Hopper, Bassuk, & Olivet, 2010)
Time For Homes recognizes the following principles of trauma-informed support:
Trauma Awareness – Those who are trauma-informed will understand the prevalence and impact of trauma among their service recipients and within the workforce. Policy and practice reflect this awareness and may be supported with activities such as screening and assessments.
Safety – Policy and practice reflect a commitment to provide physical and emotional safety for service recipients and staff.
Choice and Empowerment – To facilitate healing and avoid re-traumatization, choice and empowerment are part of trauma-informed service delivery, both for service recipients and staff.
Strengths-Based – With a focus on strength and resilience, service recipients and staff build skills that will help them move in a positive direction.
Partnering with all levels of government.
To effectuate systemic change in how we address homelessness and poverty, it will be necessary to have a broad base of public support and the participation of the government. This is a problem larger than one organization or agency, but it does require outside support. The government has done what it can to mitigate homelessness, but it is not able to solve this on its own.
Collaboration is crucial between:
Federal Government – multiple agencies will have to work together
State Governments – each state brings its own unique challenges, it’s imperative that there is buy-in from government
County and Municipal Governments – effective change will require collaborative work with those on the ground in each community
Nonprofits & Community Organization – effective change will require ongoing supportive work
Business – developers and other businesses will need a spot at the table to ensure housing stocks and necessary supplies are available
Homelessness is a problem that affects us all to varying degrees, and through this collaboration and harnessing of resources, we will be able to eradicate the problem.
Working with homeless and formerly homeless individuals to ensure those at the margins have agency and a voice at the table.
Including individuals who are experiencing, or have experienced, being unhoused or being housing-insecure allows Time For Homes to proactively address needs that may often be overlooked and to foster a real sense of community and ownership.
Additionally, Time For Homes is dedicated to promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in all we do.
Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another.
Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups.
Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate.
Key arguments make the case for diversity, equity, and inclusion:
- The moral or social justice case asserts that each person has value to contribute and that we must address barriers and historical factors that have led to unfair conditions for marginalized populations.
- The economic case is based on the idea that organizations that tap into diverse talent pools are stronger and more efficient.
- The market case states that organizations will better serve their stakeholders if they reflect the diversity of their market base.
Time For Homes has committed to improving inclusivity at every opportunity—allowing us to be the strongest organization we can.
Time For Homes believes in a methodical, rigorous approach. As such we have a Data for Good program that captures a variety of data from both government sources and other nonprofit organizations in order to drive change in the most efficient manner possible.
We seek to:
find the root causes of homelessness
model the efficacy of our proposals and programs
predict the cost-savings we can realize by solving this problem on a systemic level
Time For Homes recognizes that it is exponentially more difficult to improve a program if we aren’t able to measure its success. We operate under a theory of change that allows us to constantly evaluate our operations, with perpetual feedback loops that are built-in at each stage and level of our projects.
This further allows us to be transparent, creating richer, longer-lasting connections between us and our stakeholders.
In addition to ensuring we are guided by accurate data and analysis at all times, we share our data science programming and resources with our partner organizations.
It is clear that no one entity can ever hope to end homelessness throughout the United States—or even just New York State. It is only with a strong level of collaboration that the imperative of ending homelessness can be even remotely possible. To that end, we are building consensus and driving change with our complementary cadre of partners, fellows, and advisors—formal and informal.
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