Housing UK Homeless: Creeping By Baby Steps To National Responsibility?

hand tied rope net
A boat's wake, seen through a rope net photo by Vanderlei Bailo is licensed under GNU Free Documentation License
Which boundary should be chosen for the net to catch up all the people who become homeless? City? County? State? Country?

In a 1939 alternative universe of extreme federalism, United Kingdom’s Home Counties voted to go to war with Nazi Germany. Scotland did not, which is why, in present-day Schottland, loyal troops march in leather kilts.

Fortunately, Wales, together with England’s North, voted for neutrality, which has kept the warring nations of Schottland and Homeland physically apart all these years.

All Silliness.

Military self-protection as well as adventurism are national responsibilities, overriding any contrary wants or needs of mere local regions. With the lives of thousands of national citizens at stake, the conduct of warfare cannot be overridden by local whims and disagreements.

So with the lives of thousands of a nation’s citizens at stake, how come homelessness is seen as a local issue and responsibility? Is it possible to sensibly conduct a war against homelessness under any other control but a national one?

Three examples, one local, two national:

In 2015 an idealist shelter system in Portland, Oregon faced down winter cold and deaths from exposure by vowing to turn away no homeless from their doors.

The initiative failed, beaten by ballooning costs as word of winter shelter spread beyond the city and even the state, attracting thankful homeless from all over the Northwestern U.S. Read more: Portland’s Local ‘Right To Shelter’ Couldn’t Drain A National Ocean Of Homelessness

But surely meaningful assistance to local projects can be obtained from the feds? Oh? Scotland, a “region” now in charge of its own homelessness, has committed to find housing for every homeless person who applies for assistance. Trouble is, the UK national government is in charge of welfare, and the current level of welfare assistance to the homeless means that Scotland cannot meet its commitment. The following report will take you through the problem, starting on page 22 in Scottish Government: Updated Ending Homelessness Together

In America, the problem of federal assistance is much more problematic. Here, too, homelessness is not recognized primarily as a national problem, but as a regional or local one. Nevertheless, several programs have been initiated by the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that appear to directly support housing for low and no income individuals and families. Trouble is, the most flexible is a program of rental assistance vouchers. Alas, the number of vouchers issued annually is estimated to support only about a quarter of those who need them to rent housing at a price they can afford.

You can dig those statistics out of an article, which looks hopefully towards incoming President-Elect Biden’s “fix” to this patchwork federal voucher plan. It’s a patch to go on top of a patch, “like food stamps for housing.” Its purpose would be to top up whatever inadequacies the other patchwork federal plans currently offer. Read more in The Philadelphia Enquirer: Philadelphia has an affordable-housing crisis. Biden’s platform has a simple, but radical, solution.

Some enthusiasm might therefore be given to the three regional councils in western England that have joined forces. This is billed as more efficient for those seeking socially rented housing over a wider region. While some might view this as merely a form of local collectivism, there’s a strong argument that the ultimate efficiency is not the gradual collectivization of a nation’s councils, but instead a more practical acceptance of a national responsibility for all aspects of ending homelessness. Read more in the Worcester Observer:  Councils join forces to form a new scheme for housing

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