Today was a big day.
Today, I went to the inaugural event of the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness – the kickoff briefing.
Panelists included Barbara Poppe, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Barbara Duffield of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, Dariush Kayhan, director of homeless policy for the City of San Francisco, Mayor’s Office, and our very own Nan Roman, president of the Alliance.
The event started at 10 a.m. and I stood back, snapping pictures and trying to take some video, and heard the themes that I’ve grown to embrace and espouse: the effects of homelessness, the success of permanent supportive housing, the importance of a feasible plan to end homelessness, and the necessity to invest in affordable housing. These luminaries in the homelessness and housing fields expounded upon the lessons that I have learned in the past year, namely, that ending homelessness is possible – and we can do it together.
It was a packed room, a stirring panel, and a great kickoff event.
And just as things were finding their way to a close, a few things had me stop in my tracks as I waded towards the door.
A charming consumer advocate named Sabina Howard took the podium and shared her story of homelessness. A permanent supportive housing consumer in Washington, D.C., she and her three children had struggled to find housing in the last few years.
A person in the third row raised his hand and asked a question about youth homelessness. He was a young man himself, and he told the panel about his observations about the city, noting that he often saw young homeless women – maybe 14 or 15 years old, he said – who were young homeless mothers. It seems, he commented, that there was not enough information being distributed about resources and assistance.
An older gentleman in the back of the room asked a question I sometimes fear I’ll get. He said that it seemed some people he had encountered were perfectly content being homeless, having made their camp and communities in the woods. To him, Dariush and Barbara offered wonderfully eloquent responses, noting the success San Francisco has had in reducing homelessness in Golden Gate Park and overcoming the specific barriers to housing for those more reluctant to accept government help.
I would count myself as among the choir – I believe homelessness is a problem, I believe it can be solved, and I believe that housing is the answer.
But sitting at my desk, plodding away at my keyboard, and inundated with data and reports and legislative briefs, it’s easy to lose sight of the real, human impacts that this issue has on thousands of people everyday.
But as I listened to the testimony of people who have themselves personally interacted with homelessness – something that I’ve never had to do – it reminded me of why we do this work. And of it’s utmost importance.
So it was a big day. I got to see what ending homelessness – really ending homelessness – might look like.
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