Homelessness Ends!!

A lonely bench on 13th and G Streets after its former owner found housing, marking the complete end of homelessness in D.C. Caseworkers and soup kitchens throughout the city are attempting to pull together resources to create a new industry, but the future remains uncertain for social workers everywhere. Archive photo

This article is from Street Sense’s special April Fool’s Edition. 

In a stunning and unexpected announcement, the National Alliance to End Homelessness has announced that it has reached its goal of ending homelessness in America more than a year ahead of schedule.  

Here in Washington, formerly “home” to nearly one million homeless people, the announcement heralds both the end of a trying period in each of their lives and the end of many of the area’s nonprofits that had been devoted to reducing homelessness.  

“I thought the 10-year plan to end homelessness was pie-in-the-sky, like something from a Pollyanna movie,” said Sharon Kelpern, former executive director of Building Bridges, a nonprofit focused on helping men and women out of homelessness in Washington D.C. “But now as I pack up my belongings out of my desk, the reality is starting to set in.”  

Kelpern was not alone in her thinking. Back in 2007, Cheryl Barnes, a formerly homeless member of the D.C. Interagency Council on Homelessness, thought it would take another 10 years to wipe out homelessness.  

“When I first started advocating for the homeless, I was appalled,” said Barnes.  

“The city didn’t understand the importance of this issue. Homeless people were tired of waiting for our piece of the pie. But then, the city just suddenly got it, funding flowed freely to effective programs, and there was a realistic way for each and every one of the city’s homeless men, women and children to transition into a meaningful, productive, safe, and stable lifestyle. I was amazed at how quickly everything worked out.”  

In 2000, the National Alliance to End Homelessness set up a 10-year strategy to end homelessness in America with four key areas working together at the same time.  

The first area was to plan for outcomes. Nonprofits were encouraged to mix up the assistance they provided to avoid fostering dependency on any one service and to collect better data.  

The second area was focusing on helping the homeless with complex problems such as mental health needs first.  

The third area was to create more permanent housing or housing with services. This permanent housing with services would reduce costs of other public systems in the long run.  

Finally, the fourth area was to build infrastructure, which in short meant providing more housing, higher paying jobs and opening up more affordable services to the homeless population working toward self-sufficiency.  

“The city’s commitment to dollars was definitely a good step in ending homelessness, and showed the city believed in the concept of preventing people from becoming homeless,” said Michael Ferrell, director of the nonprofit D.C. Coalition for the Homeless.  

Nonprofits that used to help homeless populations are now out of business.  

“Washington, D.C., I am proud of you,” said former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams whose vision started this initiative. “We met our goal to end homelessness. Nonprofits, you have worked yourselves out of a job!”  

Many employees from nonprofits are experiencing a mixture of excitement and anxiety.  

“I’m so happy that homelessness is no longer a problem,” said Bryan Fickle, former caseworker at New Beginnings, an emergency homeless shelter in Washington D.C. “But now I’m scared about finding employment. Thousands of caseworkers are out of jobs and there is no new demand for us. I’m afraid I might end up living on the streets for a while unless I can find a new job soon.” 

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