The Hell-Raiser's Blog: Reducing Homelessness

By Bit Boy (Flickr: The Elephant in the Room)
 via Wikimedia Commons

The Themes For Today's Post:

People-Who-Live-In-Glass-Houses ... Penny-Wise-And-Pound-Foolish ... Can't-See-the-Forest-for-the-Trees ... Blaming-the-Victim, and  The-Elephant-in-the-Room

A Proposal to Eliminate Proposals to Eliminate 
Funding for Nonprofit Homeless Services

Some folks in Seattle think that local homelessness is getting worse and that service providers are inefficient and should lose their funding. 

Addressing homelessness with funding cuts to, and demands of greater accountability from, "inefficient" nonprofits is like a case worker telling an under-nourished person on SNAP/food stamps that she is not spending her per-meal allotment of $1.33 efficiently, so to eliminate waste and abuse, no more SNAP.

A partial list of why this proposal would be a great example of what not to do in a Logic 101 text:

1. Maybe the great majority of any identified nonprofit inefficiencies are the result of TOO LITTLE FUNDING and more cuts will only mean MORE INEFFICIENCY. (Having worked in the nonprofit sector for 25 years, I can tell you, this is the case.)

2. Demanding more accountability via increased record-keeping will likely mean less staff time for service provision, with no guarantee of a change in the types or quality of services provided. Why do I say this? Because as a fundraiser, I would estimate that the percentage of funders who actually fund the very data collection and record-keeping that they demand is 0.0000001 (maybe a slight exaggeration, but only slight). The result is less staff-time to help homeless folks.

(Instead: How about MORE money to provide the training and capacity-building that most nonprofits cannot otherwise afford? Why not hire enough (more) nonprofit staff to do the work that needs to be done? Why not pay nonprofit staff a LIVING WAGE? (You wanna talk inefficiency? Let's talk about nonprofit turnover and the associated costs. Let's talk about the number of nonprofit workers who can't afford to have kids or retire or save for college, and leave the profession before age 40, taking their experience with them.)

3. Cut funding for homeless service providers, and homeless service providers, who are probably already understaffed, will cut staff. 

4. Whatever reduction in homelessness results from making nonprofits more efficient is probably 1% of the reduction that could be achieved by reducing income inequality.

What about demanding some accountability from the we-will-create-jobs-in-exchange-for-tax-breaks corporations? What about more, or more aggressive, policies that promote affordable housing? Or policies that promote a living wage?

But cutting funding to service providers for the homeless? Talk about an inefficient use of time, energy, and resources ... yeesh.