carpenter hammer
Handmade concept. Women's hands do the product of wood. Wood workshop with a tool and a lamp
Handmade concept. Women's hands do the product of wood. Wood workshop with a tool and a lamp
Fix Homelessness How to rebuild human lives

Expanding the Toolbox

The Whole-of-Government Response to Homelessness

In the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) The State of Homelessness in America report, CEA pointed out that overall homelessness has increased in America; and in many communities, homelessness has reached a crisis level.

In just five years, unsheltered homelessness increased 20.5 percent from 175,399 in 2014 to 211,293 in 2019. Simultaneously, the number of year-round beds available to serve persons experiencing homelessness through subsidized Rapid Rehousing and Permanent Supportive Housing rose from 338,065 to 482,254, a 42.7 percent increase in five years.

Despite significant increases in funding and beds, overall homelessness has been increasing in the United States.

The federal government’s policy shift in 2013 to prioritizing housing first as a one-size-fits-all approach has not worked to reduce homelessness for all populations and communities.

Policies that do not address the real root causes of homelessness combined with high housing costs in over- regulated markets have exacerbated the homelessness condition in America.

As many community leaders are coming to realize, the status quo is simply not working. Reforms and changes are needed to reverse the growing homelessness crisis in America. Artificial changes in definitions and reclassifications that purport temporal improvements only give false hope. The time has come for real change, for real reforms.

Our aspirational goals should move beyond primarily providing subsidized housing assistance. As Congress has suggested, we must optimize self-sufficiency in federal homeless assistance programs and reduce reliance on public assistance.

This strategic plan, Expanding the Toolbox: The Whole- of-Government Response to Homelessness, envisions an approach that dramatically reduces homelessness by engaging and assessing families and individuals with a trauma-informed approach to care that addresses the real root causes of homelessness. This plan focuses on:

  • The Importance and Power of The Dignity of Work,
  • Mental Health and Trauma Informed Care Are Critical
  • Affordable Construction Leads to Affordable Housing
  • Prevention Will Save Money While Reducing Trauma
  • The Need for Population Specific Programming
  • Renewed Focus on Racial Disparities
  • Promotion of Alternatives to Criminalizing People Experiencing Homelessness, and
  • Importance of National Emergency Readiness.

Together we can make the necessary changes to dramatically reduce homelessness in America, and most importantly, to help improve the lives of the families and individuals experiencing homelessness.

Robert Marbut

Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth & Poverty
Robert Marbut is a renowned expert on homelessness and a senior fellow of Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty. Marbut has a PhD in Political Behavior and American Political Institutions and his career has been marked by bipartisanship having served as Chief of Staff for San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros in the 1980s, as a White House Fellow under George H. W. Bush, and most recently as the Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness from 2019 to 2021 under both the Trump and Biden administrations. Additionally, he served on the Board of Directors of the United States Olympic Committee from 1992 to 2004.