The New York Times and the Plain Dealer both covered the latest spin from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Bush Administration. From the administration that brought us "Enhanced interrogation techniques" as a cover for torture; "renditions" as cover for kidnapping; the cover up of the death of Pat Tillman; the spying on Americans by our telephone companies as a "terrorism monitoring program"; this sentence by the head of this government, "the economy is growing, productivity is high, trade is up, people are working," made in the last month; or the second in command telling the public that Americans will be viewed as liberators in Iraq; these guys have a hard time with the truth. The spin associated with the War in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the federal response to Katrina is staggering. Today, we read that America is reducing the number of "chronically" homeless people. Most would call this spin, a few are calling it lies.
We already discussed the offensive term "chronically homeless" that the administration uses. We also talked about how bogus HUD research is, and the number makes headlines, but the qualifiers for the data is too complicated. Dennis Culhane and the other researchers have tied their ships to HUD, and have published seriously flawed data. I mean they do research to push HUD to focus on the people who have been homeless the longest. Then they compile the information from HUD and declare this policy a major success. What a surprise that with six months left, the Bush Administration is succeeding at reducing long term homeless. Just like they keep telling us how great Iraq is doing, how great Afghanistan is doing, and how much success they have had
This is all just spin:
- Counting homeless people on one day in February across America is impossible. It is like counting the number of gumballs in a candy machine that is constantly in motion.
- They are not able to count people staying in abandoned buildings or foreclosed homes because it is too dangerous. This is especially important for communities like Cleveland with 10,000 to 20,000 abandoned properties.
- They do not count those who are staying on couches. So, the Cleveland Public Schools reported a 40% increase in homeless children from 2006-2007 school years, but most of those kids are not counted because they are staying with family and friends.
- Reducing the number of long term homeless does not mean homelessness in general is down. It is like telling us that fewer people are on welfare therefore poverty has gone down.
I am part of the National Coalition for the Homeless Board, and I can say that only a few cities in the United States have seen reductions. Most communities are seeing unprecedented numbers. A simple walk from the Metro to the HUD building in Washington will show that long term homelessness is not on the decline. I would like to know if Dennis Culhane got off the Metro on his walk to the HUD building for the press conference, noticed how many people were sleeping in the parks and street corners in the District, and had second thoughts about releasing these bogus numbers. It is spin and nothing more than spin. Hopefully, the next administration will deal with homelessness in a more honest and straight forward manner.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.