Friday, May 8, 2009

Homelessness down on Cape Cod?

Last November I wrote about the contentious atmosphere pervading the discussions on how to decrease homelessness on Cape Cod. Advocates, businesspeople and the homeless yelled at each other in public meetings, all feeling unheard and misunderstood.

This January's Point in Time count, however, seemed to indicate progress had been made-- 806 homeless people counted as compared to 936 the year before.

The question for me is, Have that many homeless people found housing? Or have many of them simply moved on?

One clue may be that the area is finding ways to work regionally, thanks in part to a $765,000 grant to the Leadership Council to End Homeless on Cape Cod and the Islands.

And maybe, just maybe, a few myths are being overturned. The Community Action Committee of Hyannis found that of the 95 identified homeless people on the town's streets, 67% of them had lived in Hyannis for six years or longer, "a surprise to the group that believed that many of the area's homeless were overwhelmingly from outlying towns." Barnstable Patriot.

I've heard this discussion of where homeless people actually come from for years-- "they come from Bourne, not Hyannis! Holyoke, not Springfield! (And "some people believe homeless people actually spring full-grown from the ground!") What does it matter? The more urban areas will always attract homeless people from outlying areas, because that's where the services are more likely to be. Of course, some people will continue to think that if you just eliminate services, you will solve the problem of homelessness.

So is life getting better for homeless people on the Cape? This summer, I hope to ask some homeless people myself, because they're the experts.

Photo from c_bear's photostream at Flickr.

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