Braver Angels: Community Conversation

Community Conversation:

Should the government provide shelter/housing to everyone who needs it?

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

6:30 PM - 8 PM

Laramie County Library Cottonwood Room

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Join Braver Angels at the Laramie County Library for a community conversation that explores if the government should provide shelter/housing to everyone who needs it.

 

Whether you're a seasoned debater or new to public forums, all levels of engagement are welcomed. Attendees have the opportunity to kick off the discussion with a brief 4-minute speech, share their perspective in shorter formats, pose questions to fellow speakers, or simply observe and listen. The Braver Angels debate structure fosters an environment where people think together, listen to one another, and are open to being changed by ideas. Every voice contributes to meaningful dialogue and potential solutions.

 

Everyone who registers and attends the event will be entered for a chance to win a $50 gift card. Please register below:

 

REGISTER FOR FREE

 

This Braver Angels event is sponsored by Wyoming Humanities and the Laramie County Library. It is brought to you by a collaboration of civic-minded organizations including the Cheyenne League of Women Voters, Better Together, Compassionate Cheyenne, and the Wyoming State Museum.

 

Braver-Angels

 

Americans on opposite sides of the political spectrum don't only disagree on issues — they increasingly dislike one another.

 

This growing partisan animosity is the crisis of our time and threatens our nation.

 

Braver Angers exists to address this challenge. 

 

What-to-expect

 

 

You probably haven’t experienced anything like a Braver Angels Debate. This is a highly structured conversation in which a group of people think together, listen carefully to one another, and allow themselves to be touched and perhaps changed by each other’s ideas. When done well, everyone walks out a little closer to the truth, more aware of the validity in opposing views, and with tighter community relationships.

 

The Braver Angels Way:

 

We state our views freely and fully, without fear.

 

We treat people who disagree with us with honesty, dignity and respect.

 

We welcome opportunities to engage those with whom we disagree.

 

We believe all of us have blind spots and none of us are not worth talking to.

 

We seek to disagree accurately, avoiding exaggeration and stereotypes.

 

We look for common ground where it exists and, if possible, find ways to work together.

 

We believe that, in disagreements, both sides share and learn.

 

In Braver Angels, neither side is teaching the other or giving feedback on how to think or say things differently.

 

Background-info-header

 

Terminology:

“Homeless”— Lacking permanent stable housing.

“Unsheltered homeless”or “living on the street” — Primary nighttime residence is a place not meant for human habitation such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings, camping grounds, bus or train station, airport, or on the street.

“Sheltered homeless” — Living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter that provides temporary living arrangements

“Housing First” — The predominant homeless assistance approach for the past three decades. It prioritizes providing permanent housing before attending to other matters such as getting a job, budgeting properly, or addressing substance use. Supportive services are offered, but Housing First does not require participation in service programs as a condition of housing.

“Grants Pass v. Johnson” (Grants Pass case) — A case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court that could determine whether it is Constitutional for a local government to make it a crime for homeless persons to sleep outside on public property when no shelter is available.

 

Background:

There is significant homelessness in Cheyenne, including unsheltered homelessness, even though the per capita rate of homelessness here is below the national average. HUDs Point in Time Count for 2023 found 653,100 homeless people nationwide (about 1 in every 500 persons), the highest ever, and an increase of 12 percent over 2022.

Almost all of the government funding for homelessness in Cheyenne and Wyoming comes from the federal government. The federal agency principally responsible for homelessness assistance is the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), under authority of the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act, which amended and reauthorized the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (see https://www.hudexchange.info/homelessness-assistance/programs/).

Organizations in Cheyenne that provide services to the homeless include the following: COMEA (temporary shelter, meals); Wyoming Coalition for the Homeless’ Welcome Mat Day Center (daytime shelter); Unaccompanied Students Initiative (housing for teens); Family Promise (temporary shelter for parent(s) and young children); Wyoming Department of Family Services Homeless Services Program/Wyoming Continuum of Care (Emergency Solutions Grants); Community Action of Laramie County’s (CALC) Crossroads Healthcare Clinic (healthcare for homeless); CALC’s Veteran Housing Services (temporary housing for veterans).

Causes of homelessness include the following:

  • Low income and lack of affordable housing

  • Mental illness

  • Addiction to drugs or alcohol

  • Release from foster care at age 18

  • Release from prison

  • Fleeing domestic abuse

  • Counter-cultural ideological motivations (homeless by choice)

Visible unsheltered homeless people and “encampments” are generally considered undesirable, making others feel uncomfortable and threatened.. They are unsightly, may interfere with others’ use of public spaces, and may pose health and crime risks. They may also be the targets of violence.

Homeless persons are unlikely to receive adequate physical or mental health care or education, and face obstacles in obtaining employment.

Proposals for housing options to remove homeless persons from the “street” include dormitories, single room occupancy buildings (e.g., multiple single rooms sharing a bathroom), “tiny homes,” campers, regular apartments, boarding houses, motels, hotels, and small/manufactured homes.

 

Some possible considerations/arguments in favor of the Resolution:

  • Decent housing is a basic human right.

  • Letting people live on the street is immoral.

  • Cleaning up encampments or otherwise forcing homeless persons to move without providing shelter just means that they will move to another unsheltered location.

  • Providing housing can be cheaper than the emergency services required when people live on the street; housing can be partly or wholly funded from cost savings realized by having people off the street. (See https://www.npscoalition.org/post/fact-sheet-cost-of-homelessness .)

  • Providing housing removes the unpleasantness of having to deal with people living on the street (including in parks, etc.)

  • People are easier to monitor and control if they are in stable housing.

  • People in stable housing can be more easily re-integrated into the community.

  • Making shelter/housing unconditionally available to everyone who needs it justifies the removal, institutionalization, or incarceration of those who refuse it.

  • Many people will not accept shelter or housing with conditions or restrictions.

  • The Grants Pass case may require that shelter or housing be available before a locality can ban living on the street.

  • Housing does not have to be free; people can be charged an affordable rent.

  • People who need treatment are more likely to be receptive and responsive to it if they do not have to deal with being unsheltered. (See Wyoming Tribune Eagle editorial, “Agenda 2024: Progress being made, more to be done to improve mental health,” May 10, 2024.) Being homeless might be a cause of addiction rather than the other way around.

  • Studies show that Housing First is effective (see https://housingmatters.urban.org/feature/housing-first-still-best-approach-ending-homelessness ; https://endhomelessness.org/resource/data-visualization-the-evidence-on-housing-first/ ; https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Housing-First-A-Critical-Strategy.pdf)

  • Only government can provide the level of funding required to provide shelter or housing to everyone who needs it.

 

Some possible considerations/arguments against the Resolution:

  • Housing for all is too expensive; we just can’t afford it.

  • It will incentivize people who don’t really need housing to game the system, or to leave less than ideal situations (e.g., couch surfing), increasing the cost.

  • It will incentivize people to move from places where there is no free/affordable housing to places where there is.

  • Mentally ill or addicted persons will not seek treatment unless they are required to do so as a condition of receiving housing.

  • People who have no skin in the game will not take care of housing they are given..

  • Many homeless people choose to live that way, and should not be forced into shelters or housing they do not want.

  • Unless people are faced with a deadline while in transitional housing to meet goals such as recovery and employment in order to be entitled to move into permanent housing, they will not do the necessary work.

  • Family members, not the government, should be responsible for housing those who are unable to house themselves.

  • People need to be self-reliant to the greatest possible degree, for their own self-respect and dignity.

  • Shelter or housing should be provided to all who need it, but it should be provided through the generosity of individuals and religious or non-profit organizations, not the government. For one thing, individuals and charities are more likely than government bureaucracies to come up with innovative and effective ways of addressing homelessness, such as “Community First.” (See, e.g., https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-12/austin-s-community-first-village-tackles-homelessness .

  • Shelter should be provided to anyone who needs it, but only the most inexpensive type—dormitory or single room occupancy, for example.

  • Families with minor children, and unaccompanied minor children, should be provided shelter, but we cannot afford to provide it to single adults.

  • Housing should only be provided to those who are willing to get treatment for addictions, stay sober, learn job skills and seek employment, and abide by other reasonable restrictions and requirements. (See links above to article and video on Community First program in Austin, TX.)

  • Housing First has been tried in several places but has not eliminated homelessness there. In fact, there is evidence that it is not an effective solution to homelessness because it doesn’t address the root causes. (See https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/472449-housing-first-approach-wont-solve-homelessness-crisis/ .)

  • There is no one-size-fits all solution; each individual situation requires a tailored approach; in many if not most cases the underlying causes must be addressed or housing will simply help support addictions, bad choices, or anti-social behaviors.