Homeless States of Emergency: Advocacy Strategies to Advance Permanent Solutions

written by Guest Blogger, Matt Warfield, National Health Care for the Homeless Council
March 8, 2016

On February 10th, the Alliance and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC) released briefs on communities that had declared homelessness a state of emergency (SOE).  In our previous blog post, we described the Alliance’s brief, Homelessness: A State of Emergency, which takes a look at the national implications. Today, Matt Warfield from NHCHC takes a closer look at their brief, Homeless States of Emergency: Advocacy Strategies to Advance Permanent Solutions.  

In response to the rising numbers of people without homes, several communities have declared homelessness a state of emergency (SOE). These declarations affirm that homelessness is a human-made disaster requiring a crisis-level response. In recognizing homelessness as a human-made disaster, these declarations also bring attention to our ability to ’un-make’ this disaster and end homelessness should we only possess the political, social, and economic will to do so.

With this in mind, the brief by NHCHC examines declarations from nine jurisdictions that recently declared homelessness a state of emergency, civil emergency, or shelter crisis. The goal? To  determine whether an SOE declaration could be used as an advocacy tool to advance permanent solutions.

The examination revealed that action steps taken by most declarations addressed the immediate issues, focusing on short-term, often temporary activities, while lacking long-term solutions. This is a missed opportunity; as official statements by governing authorities, SOE declarations have the potential to promote awareness and provide a framework to enact more permanent solutions. These can include enacting local rent regulation laws; passing laws prohibiting discrimination by landlords against people with low incomes; supporting community models of housing such as community land trusts; and permanently altering zoning, building, and other regulatory codes to reduce barriers to the production of affordable housing.

If you are interested in learning more, join us on Wednesday, March 9 at 1 p.m. EST for a joint webinar. The webinar will bring together perspectives from the Alliance, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, and representatives from communities that have declared homelessness SOEs.

Community representatives will include: Mark Putnam, Director, All Home, Seattle/King County, WA; John Gilvar, Interim Manager, Health Care for the Homeless Network, Public Health – Seattle/King County, WA; Josh Alpert, Chief of Staff, Mayor Charles Hals, Portland, OR; Ed Blackburn, Executive Director, Central City Concern, Portland, OR; and Amber Roth, Homeless Health Care LA, Los Angeles, CA.