Resolving Poverty

Sources 9-15:

5 Game Changing Homeless Programs and Developments from Around the World (July 2017)

There are so many dedicated professionals working on the homeless issue around the world that we can sometimes forget to stop and appreciate the hard work and innovation. 

1. Hyper Aggressive Housing First in Finland:  Finland as a country made housing first a national policy.  Since 2008, the federal, state and local governments have worked together using the model.  Some of the more interesting features of this change include investing in building more affordable housing and changing shelters into housing units.  Finland has almost eliminated homelessness in its country while other European countries have seen homelessness increase.

2. Skid Row: Star Apartments: Los Angeles, California: This is actually a building to support formerly homeless persons. The building uses modular pre-fabricated units that are then Star Apartments provides permanent supportive housing to 100 formerly homeless individuals.  The building includes a health center, community kitchen, art rooms and other spaces that are there to assist residents.

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3. Hidden City Tours- Barcelona, Spain: The owner hires formerly homeless and trains them to be city tour guides.  The tours are both normal city tours and city tours that focus on issues around being homeless.  I saw where my guide used to go to find free food or where many people live 20-25 to a room.  The job and income has allowed most of the guides to find a place to live and raised their skill sets in an industry that is valuable in Spain.

4. Street Bean Coffee-Seattle, Washington: This cafe hires homeless youth.  “A dedicated group of people came together and thought that a coffee shop had the most opportunity for success, with a broad appeal to a diverse group of young people, a real consumer need, and the opportunity for young people to learn a variety of job skills.” 

5. Access Bladerunner- Vancouver, Canada: This is an interesting program to help aboriginal youth who are either at risk or already homeless in Canada, between the ages of 15 and 30 through a comprehensive training and support program that focuses on creating pathways to jobs in the construction industry. The core goal of the program is to provide young people with the support and resources they need to overcome the difficulties and barriers in their lives that prevent them from obtaining, and maintaining, meaningful long-term employment.”
Here's how Finland solved its homelessness problem (February 2018)

In the last year in the UK, the number of people sleeping rough rose by 7%.
In Germany, the last two years saw a 35% increase in the number of homeless, while in France there has been an increase of 50% in the last 11 years.

These are Europe’s three biggest economies, and yet they haven’t solved their housing problem. Across Europe, the picture is much the same.

Except in Finland.

In Finland, the number of homeless is steadily decreasing. So what have they been doing differently?

There can be a number of reasons as to why someone ends up homeless, including sudden job loss or family breakdown, severe substance abuse or mental health problems. But most homelessness policies work on the premise that the homeless person has to sort those problems out first before they can get permanent accommodation.

Finland does the opposite - it gives them a home first.
The scheme, introduced in 2007, is called Housing First. It is built on the principle that having a permanent home can make solving health and social problems much easier.

The homeless are given permanent housing on a normal lease. That can range from a self-contained apartment to a housing block with round-the-clock support. Tenants pay rent and are entitled to receive housing benefits. Depending on their income, they may contribute to the cost of the support services they receive. The rest is covered by local government.
Since the scheme started, thousands have benefited.

At the same time as being given a home, they receive individually tailored support services. For instance, anyone can reserve an appointment with a housing adviser and receive advice in things like problems with paying the rent or applying for other government benefits.

There are also financial and debt counselling services to help people manage their finances and debts. Much of the support can be provided in their own home.

Housing First works so well because it is a mainstream national homelessness policy with a common framework, according to Juha Kaakinen, Chief executive of Y-Foundation, a social enterprise that provides housing to Housing First. It involves a wide partnership of people: the state, volunteers, municipalities and NGOs.

Chronic housing shortages contribute to homelessness. In Finland, increasing the supply of affordable rental housing was a critical part of the approach.
Finland used its existing social housing, but also bought flats from the private market and built new housing blocks in order to provide homes.
There are no more homeless shelters in Finland. They have all been turned into supported housing.

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It all costs money, but it saves more
“All this costs money,” admits Kaakinen. “But there is ample evidence from many countries that shows it is always more cost-effective to aim to end homelessness instead of simply trying to manage it. Investment in ending homelessness always pays back, to say nothing of the human and ethical reasons.”

The savings in terms of the services needed by one person can be up to 9,600 euros a year when compared to the costs that would result from that person being homeless, he adds.

Not everyone in Finland was happy with the new policy.
Firstly, many of those working with the homeless objected to the idea that they should receive a home first, without having to sort out any of their problems first.

But Housing First argues that it’s much more difficult to solve any problems without having a roof over your head. In the words of one person who benefited from the scheme: “Homelessness also meant daily alcohol use. It was not so much about getting drunk, but a way to pass the time. When I’ve had an apartment, I’ve spent several months without drinking. You can’t get sober when you’re homeless, no one can.”

And in residential areas where new housing blocks were established, many residents were unhappy. They were worried that it would adversely affect their neighborhood.

Part of the approach of Housing First is that a sense of community is very important. For instance, when a new housing block is built, much work is done in the local neighborhood at the same time.

That includes keeping the local community informed through open house events, encouraging residents to interact openly with the local community as well as working in the local community picking up litter and taking care of the neighborhood's green spaces.

When a new supported housing unit opens, it typically takes about two years for the area to get accustomed to the unit and its residents. It takes about the same amount of time for the unit’s residents to adjust well to the environment.

Another issue with the policy was that it didn’t seem to be reaching women. Women’s homelessness has not decreased, even though homelessness and long-term homelessness in general has. Consequently, closer attention has been paid to solving and finding solutions to women’s homelessness.

Can this work abroad?
The Y-Foundation believes that the model can be replicated in Europe, even though housing conditions vary.

In the UK, a study by the homeless charity Crisis found that a policy of this kind in the UK could be more than five times as effective and nearly five times more cost-effective than existing services.

But a recent Government report concluded that, whilst the work of Housing First in Finland was to be commended, “we believe that resources should be focused on supporting more mainstream efforts to tackle homelessness and prevent instances of entrenched homelessness.”

Kaakinen says: “There is no quick fix to all life situations but a solid base provides the foundations upon which to improve the welfare of the homeless. The first step in change is the change in attitudes.”
Finland is the only EU state not in the midst of a housing crisis (March 2017)

What is Housing First?
Housing First means ending homelessness instead of managing it. The basic idea is to offer permanent housing and needs-based support for homeless people instead of temporary accommodation in hostels or in emergency shelters. Permanent housing means an independent rental flat with own rental contract.

In Housing First, people do not have to earn their right to housing by proving their capability to manage their lives. Instead, they are provided with a stable home and individually tailored support.

How has it worked in Finland?
Since 2008 the national homelessness strategy in Finland has been based on the Housing First model, as a result of dedicated cooperation between the state, municipalities and NGOs.
Investments have been made to provide affordable housing, and shelters have been converted into supported housing units. New services and methods of help have been developed to match the multiple needs of individual tenants.
Finland has all but eradicated rough sleeping and sustainably housed a significant number of long-term homeless people. Finland is the only country in Europe where the number of homeless people has declined in recent years.

What has the public response to Housing First been? Was there any backlash?
There was a strong political will to find new solutions for homelessness. There were a few local reactions concerning the location of new service facilities. However, those were mainly overcome by open interaction with the neighborhoods.

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Financially, how does Housing First work?
The key things are affordable housing and support. Extra funding that the state has allocated for flats and services has been an incentive for the municipalities to implement Housing First.
Tenants pay rent and are entitled to receive housing benefits. Depending on their income, they may contribute to the cost of the services. The rest is covered by the municipalities. They provide the support themselves or buy support from other service providers, mainly from the NGOs.
Stable living conditions enable the use of mainstream services instead of using expensive emergency services. This will save money in a long term.

Where there any initial problems that needed to be ironed out?
The focus of the national strategy was clear from the start. The city specific implementation plans included concrete objectives and resources to meet them. Therefore, no major problems were encountered.
There was, however, some work to be done on attitudes. For example, the unconditional housing was hard to accept by some people in NGOs which had previously been working with a different set of values.

How easily can the model be replicated in other European countries?
The Housing First model can be replicated even though housing conditions may vary from country to country in Europe. Providing permanent homes for the homeless should be a target instead of temporary solutions.

How much interest have you had in the scheme? Who seems most supportive?
In Finland this has been a national strategy, not a local project. This new approach and convincing results have raised broad interest internationally.
The Shockingly Simple, Surprisingly Cost-Effective Way to End Homelessness (February 2015)

In the past nine years, Utah has decreased the number of homeless by 72 percent—largely by finding and building apartments where they can live, permanently, with no strings attached. It’s a program, or more accurately a philosophy, called Housing First.

We could, as a country, look at the root causes of homelessness and try to fix them. One of the main causes is that a lot of people can’t afford a place to live. They don’t have enough money to pay rent, even for the cheapest dives available. Prices are rising, inventory is extremely tight, and the upshot is, as a new report by the Urban Institute finds, that there’s only 29 affordable units available for every 100 extremely low-income households. So we could create more jobs, redistribute the wealth, improve education, socialize health care basically redesign our political and economic systems to make sure everybody can afford a roof over their heads.

To understand how the state did that it helps to know that homeless-service advocates roughly divide their clients into two groups: those who will be homeless for only a few weeks or a couple of months, and those who are “chronically homeless,” meaning they have been without a place to live for more than a year, and have other problems—mental illness or substance abuse or other debilitating damage. The vast majority, 85 percent, of the nation’s estimated 580,000 homeless are of the temporary variety, mainly men but also women and whole families who spend relatively short periods of time sleeping in shelters or cars, then get their lives together and, despite an economy increasingly stacked against them, find a place to live, somehow.

However, the remaining 15 percent, the chronically homeless, fill up the shelters night after night and spend a lot of time in emergency rooms and jails. This is expensive—costing between $30,000 and $50,000 per person per year according to the Interagency Council on Homelessness. And there are a few people in every city, like Reno’s infamous “Million-Dollar Murray,” who really bust the bank. So in recent years, both local and federal efforts to solve the homelessness epidemic have concentrated on the chronic population, currently about 84,000 nationwide.

The model for dealing with the chronically homeless at that time, both here and in most places across the nation, was to get them “ready” for housing by guiding them through drug rehabilitation programs or mental-health counseling, or both. If and when they stopped drinking or doing drugs or acting crazy, they were given heavily subsidized housing on the condition that they stay clean and relatively sane. This model, sometimes called “linear residential treatment” or “continuum of care,” seemed to be a good idea, but it didn’t work very well because relatively few chronically homeless people ever completed the work required to become “ready,” and those who did often could not stay clean or stop having mental episodes, so they lost their apartments and became homeless again.

In 1992, a psychologist at NYU named Sam Tsemberis decided to test a new model. His idea was to just give the chronically homeless a place to live, on a permanent basis, without making them pass any tests or attend any programs or fill out any forms.

“Okay,” Tsemberis recalls thinking, “they’re schizophrenic, alcoholic, traumatized, brain damaged. What if we don’t make them pass any tests or fill out any forms? They aren’t any good at that stuff. Inability to pass tests and fill out forms was a large part of how they ended up homeless in the first place. Why not just give them a place to live and offer them free counseling and therapy, health care, and let them decide if they want to participate? Why not treat chronically homeless people as human beings and members of our community who have a basic right to housing and health care?”

Tsemberis and his associates, a group called Pathways to Housing, ran a large test in which they provided apartments to 242 chronically homeless individuals, no questions asked. In their apartments they could drink, take drugs, and suffer mental breakdowns, as long as they didn’t hurt anyone or bother their neighbors. If they needed and wanted to go to rehab or detox, these services were provided. If they needed and wanted medical care, it was also provided. But it was up to the client to decide what services and care to participate in.

The results were remarkable. After five years, 88 percent of the clients were still in their apartments, and the cost of caring for them in their own homes was less than what it would have cost to take care of them on the street. 
A subsequent study of 4,670+ New York City homeless with severe mental illness found that each cost an average of $40,449 a year in emergency room, shelter, and other expenses to the system, and that getting those individuals in supportive housing saved an average of $16,282. 
Soon other cities such as Seattle and Portland, Maine, as well as states like Rhode Island and Illinois, ran their own tests with similar results. 
Denver found that emergency-service costs alone went down 73 percent for people put in Housing First, for a savings of $31,545 per person; detox visits went down 82 percent, for an additional savings of $8,732. By 2003, Housing First had been embraced by the Bush administration.

Still, the new paradigm was slow to catch on. Old practices are sometimes hard to give up, even when they don’t work. When Housing First was initially proposed in Salt Lake City, some homeless advocates thought the new model would be a disaster. Also, it would be hard to sell the ultra-conservative Utah Legislature on giving free homes to drug addicts and alcoholics. And the Legislature would have to back the idea because even though most of the funding for new construction would come from the federal government, the state would have to pick up the balance and find ways to plan, build, and manage the new units. And where are you going to put them? Not in my backyard.

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“The old model was well-intentioned but misinformed. You actually need housing to achieve sobriety and stability, not the other way around.”

“Going from homelessness into a home changes a person’s psychological identity from outcast to member of the community,” Tsemberis says. 
The old model “was well-intentioned but misinformed. It is a long stairway that required sobriety and required stability in order to get into housing. So many people could never achieve that while on the street. You actually need housing to achieve sobriety and stability, not the other way around. But that was the system that was there. Some people called it a housing readiness industry, because all these programs were in business to improve people to get them ready for housing. Improve their character, improve their behavior, improve their moral standing. There is also this attitude about poor people, like somehow they brought this upon themselves by not behaving right.” By contrast, he adds, “Housing First provides a new sense of belonging that is reinforced in every interaction with new neighbors and other community members. We operate with the belief that housing is a basic right. Everyone on the streets deserves a home. He or she should not have to earn it, or prove they are ready or worthy.”

Utah found that giving people supportive housing cost the system about half as much as leaving the homeless to live on the street.

Can Housing First scale to areas where land and services are expensive [...], and where data about the benefits of offering the homeless a permanent residence might not withstand the whims of politicians?

In New York City, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg rolled out a well-regarded Housing First program focusing on mentally ill individuals. But he then gutted housing subsidies for the general homeless population, including families, after saying he thought they promoted passivity instead of “client responsibility.”
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg slashed housing subsidies after saying he thought they promoted passivity instead of “client responsibility.” Today, 60,000 New Yorkers are homeless.

Today, homelessness is the highest since the Great Depression, with 60,000 New Yorkers—including 26,000 children—on the streets, in the subway tunnels, and in the city’s sprawling network of 255 shelters, conveniently located far from the playgrounds of the 1 percent.
Every month I get a paper from Welfare saying how much they just paid for me and my two kids to stay in our one room in this shelter. $3,444! Every month!” one exasperated mom told The New Yorker. “Give me $900 and I’ll find me and my kids an apartment, I promise you.” 
The new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has pledged to reinvest in supportive and affordable housing, but 1 in 5 residents now live below the poverty line, and demand is high.

But the real test case might be California, where 20 percent of the nation’s homeless live. 
Los Angeles has 34,393 homeless people, more than a quarter of whom are chronically so. 
San Francisco has 6,408 homeless,
Santa Clara County—home to San Jose and the greater Silicon Valley—has 7,567, and housing costs are among the highest in the nation. 
It takes three minimum-wage jobs to pay for an average one-bedroom apartment there. Tax credits for construction and Section 8 vouchers for rent don’t come close to the actual costs.

New housing needs to be found, or built, but with the market so tight, finding housing—any housing—is a huge challenge, one made worse when Gov. Jerry Brown slashed all $1.7 billion of the state’s redevelopment funds during the 2011 budget crisis. (Those funds have not rematerialized now that California has a huge budget surplus.) So they’re getting creative—”tiny homes, pod housing, stackable—we’re looking at it all,” Loving says. 
And they’re employing creative financing efforts, like “pay-for-success” bonds, in which investors (mostly foundations) would stake the construction funds and get a small return if the savings materialize for the county.

Advocates estimate it could take up to a billion dollars, half from grants and philanthropy, the other half in the form of county land and services (for the state of California). “The work we’re going to be doing in the next year,” Loving says, “is determining where and how to create new units and how much they are going to cost and where we can get the resources from—whether it’s private or public money. The money is all here. 
We have eBay, Adobe, Applied Materials, Google.” 
The hope is that the emphasis on quantified efficiency will persuade tech firms and billionaires obsessed with metrics that Housing First is a solid civic investment. “It’s fascinating because we have this problem we could totally solve if we wanted to,” Loving says. “We solve complicated problems all the time, right? Silicon Valley is an example of solving complicated problems all the time.”

If places as different—economically, demographically, politically—as Salt Lake City and Santa Clara County can make Housing First work, is there any place that can’t? To be sure, the return on investment will vary, depending on how you count the various benefits of fewer people living in the streets, clogging emergency rooms, and crowding jails. 
But the overall equation is clear: “Ironically, ending homelessness is actually cheaper than continuing to treat the problem. This would not only benefit the people who are homeless; it would be healing for the rest of us to live in a more compassionate and just nation,” Tsemberis says. “It’s not a matter of whether we know how to fix the problem. Homelessness is not a disease like cancer or Alzheimer’s where we don’t yet have a cure. We have the cure for homelessness—it’s housing. What we lack is political will.”
How 5 different cities are handling homelessness (2016)

Salt Lake City
Utah has managed to reduce its homeless population by 72 percent in the past nine years by implementing a Housing First Program in Salt Lake City. The policy has gained national attention for its success and is serving as a model for programs in North Carolina and San Francisco.
Tenants in the Housing First Program pay $50 a month, or 30 percent of their income. The central idea is to give people shelter first, then focus on drug abuse, mental disorders or other personal issues.
The article pointed out that the best approach to solve homelessness is multi-faceted, but should essentially "create more jobs, redistribute the wealth, improve education, socialize health care, basically redesign our political and economic systems to make sure everybody can afford a roof over their heads.”
Utah’s Fourth Street Clinic, which offers the homeless the medical attention they may need but often struggle to afford, is another successful facet of the city's homelessness plan. Since 1988, the clinic has dispensed medicine and provided medical support to more than 4,800 Utahns without a home.

Austin, Texas
Austin is utilizing the recent tiny home trend to provide affordable housing to those who can’t, according to NBC News.
Community First, as one neighborhood is called, provides around 250 homeless people with a small home on a compact 27-acre lot. One resident referred to her new home as "33.5 feet of linear bliss."
The tiny neighborhood also has a church, a garden, chicken coops, a theater and a medical center, NBC reported, but residents must be able to prove they are homeless and submit to a criminal background check. Having a record, however, won't disqualify a possible resident. The most expensive property on the lot is less than $400 a month.

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San Francisco
The city of San Francisco has not effectively addressed its homelessness situation, according to a recent report in The San Francisco Chronicle. The article found that the homeless population in the Bay Area had not changed for at least 20 year.
The city has tried a few different methods in the past, including a “shelter-bed-and-a-sandwich approach” and permanent housing options, but neither fixed any of the mental health problems and there simply wasn’t enough space.
Possible solutions could be found in "private-public funding models, cheaper forms of modular housing and streamlining techniques for helping people move out of supportive housing after they’ve been stabilized,” according to the article.
Jennifer Friedenbach of the Coalition on Homelessness said the problem has always been the money, and said the city needs “a sustained revenue source to double the housing units for homeless people, and to do prevention to keep people in their homes and to not become homeless to begin with.”

Aurora, Colorado
Colorado’s third-largest city announced it will use its controversial marijuana legislation to help its homeless population.
The city plans to allocate $1.5 million in legalized marijuana taxes to combat homelessness, according to the Huffington Post. The money has already been divided among different nonprofits to spend as they see fit.
The Colfax Community network, for example, will receive $200,000 to support its work of helping low-income families who find shelter in motels. And the city will provide two outreach groups with vans to help them serve the homeless in medical crisis, HuffPo said. The city will evaluate how the group spent the money before deciding to continue the funding next year.

Los Angeles
Los Angeles has proposed numerous efforts to combat the issue of homelessness over the years, but most recently announced a $2 billion plan to build shelters for people who live on the street and have mental disabilities in efforts to prevent cyclical homelessness.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors will propose a .5 percent tax for those making more than $1 million a year that would go toward funding the county’s homelessness plan. The board estimates the tax would bring in about $250 to $350 million each year.a great zakat/tithing idea
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority recently found that there were 46,874 people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County, a 5.7 percent increase from 2015.
8 incredible innovations helping homeless people around the world (January 2017)

Homelessness is widespread and hard to solve, affecting more than 560,000 people in the U.S. and hundreds of millions around the world.

We need to tackle poverty, lack of affordable housing, unemployment and more to truly arrive at solutions. But in the meantime, innovations can offer much-needed support to some of the world's most vulnerable populations.

1. The EMPWR coat
The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit-based nonprofit that aims to lift people out of poverty and homelessness through employment, created an innovative coat that doubles as a sleeping bag and an over-the-shoulder bag for homeless populations.
The coat is a durable, water-resistant jacket made of Cordura fabric. It costs $100 to "sponsor" a coat, distributed to those in need.
EMPWR coats have been donated across 40 states in the U.S., seven Canadian provinces and a few other countries around the world.

2. Lava Mae mobile showers
Launched in June 2014, Lava Mae is a San Francisco-based nonprofit offering mobile showers and sanitation to people experiencing homelessness. The goal isn't just cleanliness — it's to provide dignity and "radical hospitality."
The effort started when founder Doniece Sandoval converted a defunct San Francisco city bus into a mobile shower unit, and has grown to provide shower trailers and other hygiene services to 2,400+ people. 
Lava Mae is currently expanding to Los Angeles. In 2016, Sandoval received KIND Foundation's $500,000 grand prize for "transforming her community through kindness."

3. The WeatherHYDE tent
This is a reversible tent created by billionBricks, a nonprofit working with homeless and displaced communities in South and Southeast Asia.
It protects homeless populations and impoverished communities in lieu of affordable shelter, with one side keeping out cold temperatures, and the other side lined with reflective panels to keep out extreme heat. The goal of the easy-to-assemble tent is to save children's lives, offer privacy for women and allow for adaptation to urban environments.

4. Helping Heart contactless payment jacket 
Amsterdam media company N=5 came up with a new, high-tech way for people to give money to people experiencing homelessness: Wireless payments, through a jacket pocket.
The Helping Heart jacket is a prototype that takes contactless donations — all you need to do is hover your smart credit card over the front pocket to help someone in need. Donations have a 1 Euro limit, and all of the money has to be redeemed through an official homeless shelter. It's never redeemed as cash; all money goes toward food or places to sleep, or things like vocational training courses and even savings accounts.
Trials within the homeless community garnered positive feedback, while advocacy organizations support how the jacket helps people toward long-term goals. N=5 hopes to produce the Helping Heart jacket at scale in an affordable and compact way.

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5. The GiveSafe app
GiveSafe is an organization that distributes quarter-sized "beacons" to homeless people through shelters in Seattle, Washington. People with the GiveSafe app will receive a notification when they pass someone holding a beacon, providing more information about the person and an opportunity to donate money.
People experiencing homelessness can use the donations at select stores or through a nonprofit counselor on things like clothing, transportation, haircuts and more.
The goal is to "remove the friction and barriers to giving."

6. WeCount
WeCount is an online app that allows homeless people to safely ask for items they need, and provides a way for people in their community to donate directly. Anyone can sign up with an email address or a text message-enabled phone number, and users choose whether they want to donate or receive help.
Categories for donations include outdoor gear, home goods, children's needs and clothing. 
People can either donate gently used items they have on hand, or see what homeless people in their community need specifically.
WeCount then matches the donated items with those in need at specific pick-up sites. The service is currently available in Seattle.

7. DoNotPay chatbot
An undergrad student at Stanford University created an AI chatbot to help people get out of parking tickets, but he soon found another use for his innovation: Providing homeless people and refugees with free legal aid.
DoNotPay, launched by 19-year-old Joshua Browder, asks a user a series of questions to figure out the best way to help them. The bot then takes that information to draft a claim letter, saving people on legal fees that can run into hundreds of dollars.
He conferred with lawyers to help him craft responses for homeless people specifically, and also researched trends on why public housing applicants are denied in order to help particularly vulnerable populations (those living with mental illness, for example).
While currently focusing on the UK, Browder hopes to expand DoNotPay to the U.S. soon.

8. PSINET algorithm
Created by a team of social workers and computer scientists at the University of Southern California, PSINET helps prevent the spread of HIV among homeless teens.
Through artificial intelligence, the algorithm (called PSINET) helps organizations identify the best person in a given homeless community to spread HIV prevention information among young people. The selection is made using math and data, based on a mapped-out network of friendships.
This Strategy for Ending Homelessness Is Catching On Around the World (November 2017)

For 20 years, Anthony Hopkins slept on the sidewalks of Washington, D.C., occasionally stopping by his mother’s for a shower or visiting a drop-in center for a bite to eat.
Hopkins lived day to day, struggling to manage his mental illness and substance use disorder. He assumed finding permanent housing was a fantasy.
An apartment seemed like a rare reward for the few homeless folks who managed to get sober, get a job, or fulfill other complicated requirements — and then were lucky enough to find vacancies in supportive housing sites.

So he didn’t worry about the future, only his present realities.
“The simple fact is: if you don’t have a place to live, you don’t worry about a job or setting goals or your responsibilities,” Hopkins told Global Citizen. “You worry about where you’re going to get your next meal and if you’re going to wake up the next morning.”
But in 2008, the director of the drop-in center asked Hopkins: “Are you tired of being homeless? Are you tired of living on the street?”
The man told Hopkins he could have a permanent apartment without jumping through the usual hoops if he attended an appointment with the organization Pathways to Housing the next morning. To Hopkins, it seemed too good to be true.

Natural Disasters Makes 14 Million People Homeless Each Year, Reports Show

By giving Hopkins a permanent place to live, Pathways to Housing enabled him to focus on improving other parts of his life.
That’s the basic idea behind the Housing First approach. It’s a strategy that has spread from Nyc to Scandinavia and from Australia to Argentina, since it was developed by psychologist Dr. Sam Tsemberis in 1992, the same year he founded Pathways to Housing in New York City.
While the approach may sound intuitive, homelessness is often perceived as a shameful personal failing or a natural consequence of severe mental illness, and that stigma has helped give rise to a series of complex requirements that homeless people are mandated to meet before being given housing.
The Housing First model bypasses such stigmas and tackles homelessness at its most basic level — a simple lack of a roof over one’s head.

As housing costs increase and incomes stagnate around the globe, homelessness is getting worse.
The number of homeless people in France increased by nearly 50% between 2001 and 2012 and in Germany, the total homeless population rose by 35% between 2012 and 2014.
In Australia, one in 20 are homeless. 
The number of people who accessed homeless services increased by 14% between 2013 and 2016.
Homelessness is also on the rise throughout Brazil’s biggest cities. 
Earlier this month, 20,000 homeless residents of Sao Paulo demonstrated to demand more affordable housing. According to the Sao Paulo government, the number of people sleeping on the streets nearly doubled between 2000 and 2015.

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In particular, people with severe mental illnesses — the population Tsemberis had in mind when he developed the “Housing First” approach — are at high risk of becoming chronically homeless. They often lack the capacity to comply with the various requirements of temporary shelters or treatment programs that could eventually lead to housing, Tsemberis said.

“What’s frustrating about homelessness is you can solve it right away. It’s not like you need to develop a cure,” Tsemberis told Global Citizen. “There is so much evidence showing how Housing First works, but it takes political will.”

Finland, Norway, and Denmark have all demonstrated their commitment to implementing the Housing First model because they take “the idea that housing is basic human right very seriously,” Tsemberis said.
Finland has nearly ended street homelessness by funding permanent housing programs. The Nordic nation has reduced the number of emergency shelter beds in the entire country to just 58.

In the US, three states — Virginia, Delaware, and Connecticut — along with 51 large communities, including Houston, Texas and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have ended veteran homelessness altogether thanks to permanent housing programs for the chronically homeless. Across the nation, the population of homeless veterans decreased by almost half between 2010 and 2016  — though 40,000 homeless vets remain on the streets.

In September, French president Emmanuel Macron announced his commitment to funding 50,000 permanent apartments, which would immediately house chronically homeless people.
Since her election in 2015, the mayor of Madrid (Spain) announced the development of 135 new units (and Tsemberis tweeted that the Spanish capital is on pace to end street homelessness by 2020).
In comparison, about 60,000 homeless people still rely on the New York City municipal shelter system every night.

The United Nations considers housing a human right. 
Homelessness is just the most visible manifestation of economic and social policies that exacerbate worldwide poverty and inequality — “the very tiny tip of a much larger iceberg” Tsemberis said.

Tsemberis said Global Citizens can start to address homelessness by recognizing the discomfort we feel when we encounter a homeless person. That discomfort is an indication that homelessness is unnatural and inhumane, he said.
“I do believe that all of us sacrifice part of our humanity by being able to walk past a homeless person,” Tsemberis said. “It goes against human instinct. You have to shove a piece of yourself down to walk by someone who is suffering in the street.”
“We owe it to them,” he continued. “And we owe it to ourselves to restore a sense of community and humanity.