How did we get here?

A Partial list of homelessness  & Poverty educational  resources, Best Practices and resources FOR ADVOCATES


Mass Homelessness didn't just happen by chance. It wasn't always like this, and 
It doesn't have to be like this today.

Mass Homelessness is often talked about like it is an inevitable part of American society, and homeless people are often talked about like they themselves are the problem. But, mass homelessness was not caused by a few bad choices made by individual homeless people. Mass homelessness is the result of systemic poverty and policy failures that have resulted in our current situation - where millions of Americans can't afford a place to live. 


It sounds like basic wisdom (because it is), but we must continually remind people that homelessness ends with a home, and nothing else. People are homeless because we live in a society where governmental policies and systemic forces have made it impossible for some people to have housing. It is that simple -  if people had access to safe and decent housing that they could afford at their income level, we would not have mass homelessness

We didn't used to have mass homelessness in this country, and that was due to the fact that the vast majority of Americans had housing they could afford to live. Homelessness was at one point brief and rare for most Americans. Yes, we had inequality and oppression that we should have addressed in the 1960's and 70's (and we still need to address these issues), but we had housing!


But then, policy changes in the late 1970's and 1980's resulted in a catastrophic housing crisis (that has only gotten worse since then), which resulted in our current epidemic of mass homelessness. Today, an estimated 3.5 Million Americans experience homelessness each year, and as many as 1 in 10 Americans will experience homelessness in their lifetime.

For the last three decades, policy makers have criminalized and villainized the poor, and blamed Mass Homelessness on everything but our housing crisis and systemic poverty. The result of this prejudicial way of thinking - that assumes homelessness is caused by the personal deficiencies of poor people rather than systemic forces - and has been catastrophic. Today, the government spends more money subsidizing mortgages for wealthy people and waging war than it has ever spent on housing for the poor. And instead of being helped, the poor are incarcerated at alarming rates and pushed out of public spaces on the tax-payer's dime. Meanwhile homelessness has increased at alarming rates and become a permanent fixture of our society.


Thankfully there is a growing body of research that proves what ought to be common knowledge:


-Mass Homelessness is the result of systemic poverty, not individual choice,

-The criminalization of homelessness is bad policy,


-And Mass Homelessness will only end when we commit to providing access to safe and decent affordable housing every person who is in need of housing in our community.

Below are some of the resources we know of that speak to our current crisis of mass homelessness. As much as we are able, we list the free online version of a report so that it is easily accessible. We also mention some printed books that you can order through your local library. Some of these resources are boring and dry, like you might expect policy reports to be - but many of them are engaging and speak to the intersecting issues of race, class, gender, able-ism and poverty. We also have listed some good resources for people who want get involved in campaigns for making our community more just and equitable. If you see a good resource that is missing here, please tell us about it, so we can add it to the list. 

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Best Practices For Service Providers:


Criminalization of Homelessness Reports and Statements:




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