Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Our Ten Year Plan to Plan Planfulness

So what is King County's Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, if it isn't a plan to end homelessness, as the name would suggest?

The best answer I have come up with so far, and the most generous, is that it is a plan to plan the ending of homelessness, for ten years.

The current state of the KC Ten Year Plan is a document available from their website, with or without pictures. The document says the plan calls for the creation or maintenance of 9,500 housing units over the next ten years specifically reserved for the homeless population. Of those, 3625 should have intensive support services on site, 3275 should have moderate support services on site, and the remaining 2600 can get by with no on site support services. The plan details the sorts of support required, who should get them, who should deliver them. It calls for client participation to the degree possible.

So how is it a plan to plan and not a plan? A plan would include a method to do all this. A plan would say, for example, take this money, give it to such and such an agent, and have them build such and such. Everything is there except the "take this money" part. In place of the "take this money" part is some language about building leadership and will that goes nowhere on the pages it takes up.

The money might come from the federal government, which claims to really love our Ten Year Plans to pieces, "but you know, there is no political will," says they, "for ending all homelessness, at the federal level." "So if you local communities have the will to do it, great, but what we're interested in is ending chronic homelessness."

This is not lost on our planning planners. So, believe it or not, even though we are planning a plan to end all homelessness (9500 units would do it at conservative projected rates, after all) the talk in subcommittees keeps turning to the chronically homeless.

Yesterday's Single Adults Committee meeting had an odd moment that showed one of the ways the federal goals are subverting our thinking locally.

I'm terrible with names, and anyway half the people at this committee mumble, so I'm not sure who was speaking, but she was from the Health Care for the Homeless Network, and she was presenting data concerning three shelter sites under their purview, namely St. Martin de Porres, for elderly men, DESC's shelter, and Angeline's YWCA shelter, which is mainly for women. The following chart was discussed.

Our speaker pointed out how striking it was that the long term clients (more than 3 years) of the shelters were almost all single adults, while single adults made up only a little more than a third of the clients who had used the same shelters less than one year.

Why does it matter? Beats the hell out of me. The best I can figure is that if we can convince ourselves that it's the single adults who end up being chronically homeless we can go to the feds and say, please help us house all our single adults, they may not be our chronically homeless now, but they will be in two or three years, give them time.

And then everything will simplify. We can fund everything, because we have the means to turn all of our homeless people into single adults. We just break up the families they come to us in, and let them age a few years if they came as youth.

Actually if the feds won't preemptively fund our single adults on the grounds that they will be our chronically homeless, no problem, because without funds they will be, so we'll get our funding eventually anyway.

I pointed out that the chart doesn't show that this process isn't already happening. There is no way to know that half or more of the 90% single adults in the long term group hadn't been in the youth or family categories two years ago.

I don't know, but I know the discussion wouldn't be so convoluted if the political will were not planned, but already in place.

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