Why Are Emergency Homeless Shelters Disappearing?

Across the country, downtown homeless shelters are caught in a perfect storm, according to CityLab. “Property values throughout America’s urban cores are rising, making the work of sheltering the disadvantaged less sustainable and desirable downtown, even as displacement adds to their ranks,” the site notes.

Compounding the problem, federal money for supporting the homeless are increasingly directed toward programs that provide housing for the chronically homeless. These shelters are “a big success,” CityLab notes, “but not so helpful for families who are struggling with a sudden crisis that has put them on the streets.”

Meanwhile, the nation’s opioid crisis has changed the face of homelessness, affecting more and more suburban and rural individuals. What it means to be homeless — and who’s affected by it — could change attitudes.

“This population too often ends up in the city, turning to downtown shelters to meet their needs—especially those shelters that do not require sobriety as a prerequisite,” CityLab notes. “The strain is showing. Compared with the structural stresses on downtown shelters, local politics is nothing.”


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