Study: Misguided Government Policies Worsen Homelessness


Homeless man walks with bicycle and cart | Image by Shutterstock

Homelessness and vagrancy have drastically increased over recent years, reaching critical levels in many major cities, including Dallas and Fort Worth.

According to a new report from The Center on Wealth & Poverty at the Discovery Institute, the total number of homeless and vagrant people across the nation “is approaching 1.2 million, not the half a million number that is frequently cited by media sources.”

Government efforts to address the homelessness and vagrancy crisis are “doomed to failure” because they “begin with an inadequate diagnosis of the causes,” according to the report.

The report explains that although lack of housing is a “major factor” in homelessness and vagrancy, these issues are not primarily housing problems that can be solved through a “Housing First” approach.

“Housing first” approaches ignore untreated mental illnesses and enable addicts to continue their drug abuse through “harm reduction” projects. The federal government formally adopted “Housing First” in 2013.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) describes “Housing First” as an approach to connect the homeless to “permanent housing without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety, treatment, or service participation requirements.”

The Discovery Institute report explained, “Even though federal funding of the homelessness assistance system has significantly expanded after the policy shift to the Housing First approach, unsheltered homelessness rose dramatically between 2014 to 2020.”

“The total number of unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness increased 20.5% over the five pre-COVID years after HUD’s adoption of Housing First,” it read.

The report also noted that the Biden administration did not report the national homeless count for 2021. The institute said the omission “was likely made to hide the dramatic increases in unsheltered homelessness since the onset of the Housing First approach.”

“Prior to the implementation of Housing First, the total number of unsheltered individuals had dropped 31.4% between 2007-2014, when intensive wraparound services for participants were required for most homeless assistance program participants,” it continued. “The downward trend ended with HUD’s adoption of the Housing First approach.”

The report described Housing First as a program with no rules, no treatment programs, and no participation requirements.

“Disconnecting housing subsidies from any participation requirement for rehabilitation and treatment is the most radically negative single change to federal homelessness assistance policy in decades,” the report declared.

The “Housing First” approach was built on the false premise that “homelessness is primarily a housing issue rather than a mental illness issue with co-presenting substance use disorders.”

“A reverse course is needed,” the report said. “Rather than seeking to increase the number of taxpayer-subsidized housing vouchers, our goal should be to help as many people as possible into recovery and stability, and then toward self-sufficiency with supported long-term sobriety.”

The two most important tools to end homelessness, according to the report, are the promotion and funding of “trauma-informed” treatments directly tied to housing provisions and the development of “truly affordable housing construction through the elimination of local building fees and excessive regulatory requirements.”

The Center on Wealth & Poverty encouraged Congress to take the following steps, among others, in addressing the country’s homeless crisis:

  1. Pass legislation directing HUD to eliminate Housing First as the primary approach to addressing homelessness.
  2. Prioritize economic “self-sufficiency” as the primary measure of the effectiveness of all federal homelessness assistance programs.
  3. Prioritize trauma-informed wraparound services.
  4. Require program participation in all federally-funded homelessness assistance programs.
  5. Incentivize local governments to eliminate local building fees for affordable housing construction.

Dr. Robert Marbut, a Discovery Institute senior fellow and former director of the Federal Interagency Task Force on Homelessness, said, “The housing first policy often results in a housing only policy in many cases.”

“A more diverse policy should include treatment for mental illness and drug addiction,” he continued. “Congress should be measuring how many lives are improved and how many people exit homelessness, rather than promoting ‘harm reduction‘ initiatives.”

“In essence, we have created an enormous federal homeless assistance program that is functionally equivalent to HUD Section 8 housing, but with no rules,” said Marbut. “The success of federal programs should not be measured by amounts of inputs — such as numbers of housing vouchers delivered — but by the number of persons recovered from homelessness.”

If you enjoyed this article, please support us today!

Formed in 2021, we provide fact-based, non-partisan news. The Dallas Express is a non-profit organization funded by charitable support and advertising.

Please join us on the important journey to make Dallas a better place!

We welcome and appreciate comments on The Dallas Express as part of a healthy dialogue. We do ask that you be kind. Kind to each other and to everyone else in your comments. For more information, please refer to our Complete Comment Moderation Policy.

Subscribe to Comments
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 months ago

I think it is interesting how homelessness seems to correlate with the open border crisis yet no study or politicians ever make that connection. If housing and drug abuse are the two key problems closing the the border would seem to be a great start to solving all these people trafficking drugs and taking up affordable housing from Americans that needed housing before they illegally entered our country.

Stylz P
Stylz P
4 months ago

That is the most uniformed, misguided, and idiotic position I’ve ever read about homelessness. Everyone who reads it will undoubtedly be dumber, just for having read it. The waste and abuse built into wraparound trauma programs is enormous. All the money spent on ignorant case managers, misinformed counselors, and not understanding substance abuse or the role police and DA’s play in this problem is massive. Direct housing assistance, no middle men, and strict but fair law enforcement is cheaper, more effective, and less discriminatory than your imaginary feel good dream of a solution.

Victoria Fields
Victoria Fields
4 months ago

I’m not suffering from any addiction and the city of Fort Worth is about to cause me to become homeless due to my taxes on my paid off house that went up so high I just can’t come up with that kind of money. I’ve been fighting for my disability for 3 years now. So, there are or will be other homeless people that were homeowners until taxes spiked and the city decided to take our homes instead of trying to help figure out ways to keep us in our homes. If there are options out there, they sure don’t let anyone know about them!