Last Updated on March 23, 2023
A pdf of the above image is available at https://friendsoftheunsheltered.org/wp-content/uploads/Systemic-Causes-of-Homelessness.pdf.
During the March 27, 2023 Seaside City Council meeting Rick Bowers described this slide during the public comment period. Here is the link (opens in new window): https://www.youtube.com/live/KYzpqfor-Kw?feature=share&t=4275.
3-Minute Public Comment
In the late 1960s I, Rick Bowers, lived in Denver, Colorado. There was a downtown street named Larimer… also called skid row. There were 57 flophouses and 10 missions. A renewal project was approved by voters in 1967… today it’s a tourist destination. At the time I was in favor of the urban renewal although I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t even consider where the people living in the 57 flophouses would go….
What I didn’t consider were the unintended consequences. That’s what I want to point to today… systemic changes and the unintended consequences of many decisions.
We removed flophouses, sometimes called SROs, along with boarding houses all across the country. Where have all those people gone?
Now I’m switching to another systemic change, mental health:
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed a bill meant to free many thousands of Americans with mental illnesses from life in institutions. It envisioned building 1,500 outpatient mental health centers to offer them community-based care instead. But only half of the proposed centers were ever built, and those were never fully funded. Meanwhile, about 90 percent of beds have been cut at state hospitals. In many cases, that has left nowhere for the sickest people to turn, so they end up homeless, abusing substances or in prison. The largest mental-health providers in the nation today are jails.
Now onto the systemic impact of zoning… or lack of zoning.
The slide shows an aerial view of Community First! Village outside the city limits of Austin, TX. This is a project of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a social outreach ministry focusing on homelessness. They purchased 51 acres and in Phase I of the project created 100 RV/Park homes, 130 Micro-homes, a Community Art House, Community Cinema, Community Inn, Community Market, an Organic Farm, a Family Health Resource Center, and a Woodworking Shop. Phase II will expand this to 500 homes. The creators said building the village was possible because in Texas, county land, land outside of city limits, has no zoning. The nonprofit did not have to deal with conditional use permits, NIMBYs, appeals, LUBA, or the courts.
My point… the current situation regarding homelessness, both positive and negative, is the result of countless systemic policy decisions that have taken decades to manifest the current unintended consequences.