“Home” means shelter, safety, security, a locus for living, and a sense of belonging. To be without a home – to be homeless – is perhaps the most serious expression of material deprivation and poverty, exclusion, risk, and rootlessness that one could experience.
It has been almost 70 years since the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights was adopted, proclaiming that housing is a fundamental human right that should be attainable by all. Indeed, housing – more specifically, having a place that one can call her or his HOME – is the foundation for health, security, personal relationships, and overall physical, social, and emotional well-being. The negative consequences of homelessness and residential instability for men, women, children, and families who endure this situation have been well documented in the research literature and are familiar to every social worker. The personal and societal benefits of achieving housing and a place to call home have also been well-documented with an abundance of data.
The quest for home is attainable within 10 years. We have only to look to the Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, to see what extensive resources, collaboration, and advocacy can do to successfully reduce prevalence of homelessness among veterans. Housing First initiatives have also been effective in many cities to reduce chronic homelessness. Eradicating poverty entirely is likely not attainable within a decade, but addressing one of its most significant manifestations is within our reach. Although the formula to satisfy the quest for home is highly complex, must be adapted for different populations (e.g. families), and requires collaboration among multiple systems, organizations, and individuals, many of the basic elements of the formula are already known. We should capitalize on success experienced thus far – we should take advantage of the momentum that has already been generated.
If not now, then when?