Sunday, April 29, 2007

Media Takes on Ending Homelessness

Can We End Homelessness in 10 Years?

It is increasingly rare to hear about homelessness on the radio, and last week Justice Talking on NPR featured an entire one hour episode on homelessness. So, we should not complain about any media exposure, but I really get frustrated when they relegate homeless people to the feature section of the program and save the debate for the "experts". We have talked about this bogus 10 year planning process to end homelessness that the Bush Administration is pushing. Justice Talking, one of the best weekend programs on NPR (not currently heard on-air in Cleveland), did a good overview of the issues and talked to people from around the United States. Margot Adler interviewed the point person for the Federal Government, a few local homeless social service providers, and the researcher who came up with this stupid focus on long term homeless people.

Roosevelt Darby of Philadelphia was also on the show at the very end. He is a highly intelligent advocate who happens to have had a history of homelessness. Darby is on the National Coalition for the Homeless' Board of Directors, and has thought long and hard about solving homelessness. Why did he not get to weigh in on the theme of the show: can government end homelessness in 10 years? He has a good story about his getting off the streets, but he also has a unique perspective on the ending homelessness. I wish that they had started with Roosevelt's story and then had given him a chance to answer the question about how he would end homelessness. Darby also could have given his opinion about where the feds are going wrong with their plan.

Justice Talking reporters interviewed Phil Mangano, the best spin doctor within the Bush Administration. (Yes, he is better than Dan Bartlett or Tony Snow.) He heads the Interagency Council on Homelessness in Washington DC, but he spends very little time in the nation's capital. The reporter treated Mangano as some kind of rock star and treated him to softball questions. They should have pummeled him with questions about the federal commitment to ending homelessness. The guy travels enough to to run one of the big shelters in Cleveland. He does ribbon cuttings in all the major cities that are completing these plans, while he knows in his heart that these have no chance of making any difference in America. He knows that without income support to afford rent, universal health care (even for those with a mental illness), and a massive federal infusion of decent, safe affordable housing we have no chance to do anything but manage the problem.

His job is to get all the federal agencies (HHS, Labor, Education, HUD, Veterans, etc.) all on the same page toward ending homelessness. This has not worked in New Orleans, which is the become the living breathing sign of our failure to address poverty in America. He cuts ribbons in Pittsburgh while his boss cuts their public housing budget. Then he flies off to Topeka, Kansas for the christening of their 10 year plan to manage homelessness--only the media is told that it is a plan to end homelessness. I have the utmost respect for everyone who attempts to make it a better day for their fellow travelers looking for housing. There is no more honorable job then domestic violence hotline worker, or shelter monitor, or outreach professional even if most of the time they cannot solve people's problems. Mangano is one of the people that I have nothing but contempt for because he has the power to make a real difference in the United States, but instead he spends his time counting to 10 and making strategic planning consultants rich throughout the United States.


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Anonymous Jena said...

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I hope IssueLab can be a helpful source of content for your blog. This month we're featuring work from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless -- check it out!

11:22 AM  

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