Shelter creation and homelessness reduction in the States


Shelter creation and homelessness reduction

Homelessness has been a troublesome issue in the Untied States of America. And it has a tendency of deterioration. In terms of city appearance, it is damaging to have homeless people living on the streets. Take San Francisco for instance, the fact that the homeless use the streets as bathroom and bedroom has gotten out of control. As one of the most visited cities in the U.S., locals are frequently asked by tourists: what happened to the city?
Moreover, a potential ripple effect of having huge homeless population caused by income disparity would be devastating to a society.

Across the nation, many cities have homelessness reduction programs regardless of blue or red. One of the most frequently used remedies in those programs is to build shelters. Over the past decades, a lot of shelters have been built and a number of new ones will be built. However, there are few researches done to evaluate the effectiveness of shelter creation on homelessness reduction. Running homeless reduction programs cost a great amount of money and poses budgeting handicap to governments. Therefore, the feasibility of shelter creation on a larger scale to resolve homeless issue has to be considered as well.

My research question: Can shelter creation play a role in reduction of homelessness in America?

Hypotheses I intend to test:

Shelter reaction would reduce homelessness.

Shelter reaction would be financially sustainable and feasible for governments to reduce homelessness.

Literature review:

Let’s look at some existing insightful analysis on this topic first to answer following questions: What causes a person become homeless? What traps a homeless? What are the costs of existing homelessness remedies? Some analysis pointed out that the Causes of homelessness are as diverse as human fingerprints. But five types of issues stand out:
1. Medical bills combined with lack of health insurance
2. Mental illness, which lowers employment opportunity and compounds the inability to take intelligent action on one’s own behalf
3. Substance abuse leading to poverty, and then lack of ability to obtain effective treatment after becoming homeless
4. Domestic violence
5. Poor readjustment to civilian life by veterans, especially those who were disabled permanently or temporarily by war injuries.

From the reasons, we can see clearly that financial predicament they can’t get out is the primary reason to become homeless.

Meantime, Some analysis pointed out that the effective prevention of homelessness.
1. Financial literacy being taught in schools and to adults as needed. While states are busy trying to reform predatory lending, maybe they should require a good simple-to-read chart about financial issues to be distributed along with the payday loan!
2. Community retention and provision of affordable housing. A community has a moral obligation to fight to retain whatever affordable housing it has.
3. Good information about housing opportunities.
4. An extensive, friendly, and well-publicized network of solutions for people with mental health, substance abuse, social skills, and joblessness issues. With cuts in social service funding everywhere, it’s being left to the faith-based and non-profit sectors to take up the slack.
The major remedy the governments are doing is to reduce homelessness is centered on housing. How those programs worked? Did they effectively reduce homelessness? How much they cost? There are few researches done to evaluate that. That is why my research is needed.

Analytical methods:
I intend to use secondary data analysis from existing shelters and conduct an exhaustive survey on homeless population as well as focus group for my research. Homelessness is ubiquitous across the nation. However, in order to conduct a research that can give a conclusive evaluation on the effectiveness of shelters on homelessness reduction, I will have to do an exhaustive research based on one city. This time we choose San Francisco where homelessness is severe. With more funding, we could duplicate the same research on other cities.
In San Francisco, there are permanent shelters and temporary shelters. First we need data from the permanent shelters to calculate the population turnover. For example, each year, how many homeless people in the permanent shelters can move out the shelter and live on their own in the society.
I use survey because I need to have most updated data about homeless population and their financial situation and basic profile. This survey will be inclusively covering all homeless people in the city of San Francisco.

Question 1:How long have you been homeless?
Question2: Are you currently employed?
Question 3:Do you have disabilities?
Question 4: What is your income level?
Question 5: How old are you?
Question 6: Please indicate, if any, at what level you are consuming substances below?
This survey answers how many shelters the government would have to build, therefore we can get a sense of the fiscal feasibility of doing it.

Focus group:
I plan to have two working teams to conduct focus group sessions: team 1 and team 2. Each team operates independently from the other team, but both the two team will have same kind of four groups that have certain subjects as required below:
Group A: people who were once homeless but now are not homeless anymore
Group B: people who are chronicle unsheltered homeless (chronicle means living on the street no more than 6 months)
Group C: People who are non-chronicle unsheltered homeless (non-chronicle means living on the street no more than 6 months)
Group D: Homeless with disabilities excluding mental disability

Each group has about 20 subjects. With group A, we focus on reasons they have moved away from homeless situation. With group B, we look at things that make them living in the street chronically and things that would have been very helpful to get them out of homeless situation in the first three months. With group C, we listen to them about what they need most to get back to the society. With group D, we probe into special difficulties disabled homeless have when they try to move out of homelessness.

In conducting both survey and group talks, we will constitute informed consent document and hand it out to each subject before we read it out to them.

Focus group data collection:
Every focus group session will be video-recorded. It is the best way to keep all first hand data. And video will be helpful for identifying who is speaking. Recordings also provide access to nuances of the discussion and the ability to replay sessions during analysis. We will transcribe all focus group discussions. Meanwhile, we will have least 2-3 researchers (in addition to the moderator) attend the focus group and take notes.  The focus of each researcher’s note-taking efforts might be different (e.g. nonverbal behavior, group dynamics, emergent themes). Note taking is important to capture nonverbal data.  Even if one is video-recording a group, some nonverbal behavior will be lost that might be recorded by a note-taker.

Manpower needed:
About 300 part-time workers to conduct survey.
At least 10 experienced staff from our own institute to conduct group talks, each team 5 people. One is in charge of video recording, one moderator who in charge of directing the session, three researchers who are responsible for transcribing and taking notes.

If funding is in place, we set out to start our research on June 1st, 2015.
Submit request to administration of existing shelters to gain data on shelter turnover ratio. (June 1st)
Recruit and train 300 part-time workers (June 1st – June 19th )
Conduct the survey (June 20th – July 30th )
Develop a protocol and process for group talks (June 21st – June 30th )
Conduct group talk (July 1st – July 30th )
Compile date and analysis date (August 1st – August 30th)

With the turnover ratio in permanent shelters, we can get the quantitative data on the fact that with help on housing the percentage of homeless population can move away from homeless situation. With the survey, we get the exhaustive data on homeless population in the city, so we understand the concrete financial need for reducing homelessness by shelter creation. And fiscal feasibility gets emerged. Focus groups gives us most accurate facts on what homeless need to get out of the situation and if shelters help them significantly. Through these data we can predict the hypotheses very well. Thus, we can give answer to how shelter creation can reduce homelessness in the nation. And this research will give a substantial empirical guide for governments and non-profit originations that work to reduce homelessness of America.

(Research is currently in progress)

Independent Researcher: Shen (William) Hu

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