Homelessness is a severe problem across the United States of America, and New York City is not an exception. According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (n.d.), 91,271 people experienced homelessness in 2020, which denoted that many central streets, parks, and other public spaces were occupied by encampments and shelters. This state of affairs demonstrates that many people in New York City are deprived of adequate living conditions, meaning that a practical solution is required.
In general, a rising number of homeless people in the streets is overwhelming, and many factors contribute to the problem. For example, they include unemployment, lower vacancy rates, decreased per capita expenditures on mental health, and closure of single-room-occupancy hotels and other types of affordable housing (Rukmana, 2020). That is why it is challenging to find a single solution that will address all the causes, meaning that policymakers cannot agree about appropriate interventions. The absence of a unified approach results in different political conflicts because various groups advocate for implementing their policy and ignore the fact that a deeper insight into the problem can be necessary.
Risks and Challenges
The identified problem implies a few significant risks and challenges. On the one hand, it is expected that a high number of homeless individuals can lead to increased crime rates. The presence of people who live and sleep in public places damages the city’s image among locals and tourists. Furthermore, homeless shelters are an economic burden because they need $30,000-$80,000 per person annually (Constant, 2021). On the other hand, a leading challenge refers to the fact that many causes contribute to the problem (Rukmana, 2020). As a result, politicians often argue about a suitable solution, which means that the problem is left unaddressed, maximizing potential harmful effects.
Alternatives and Solutions
Various alternative solutions are available to address the problem under consideration. The first option refers to tearing down the encampments and shelters that occupy public places. This strategy is not very efficient because it only addresses a symptom, not a cause, and homeless people move to another encampment place. The second potential solution refers to building more affordable houses. However, Constant (2021) stipulates that this approach is not efficient because the presence of cheap houses cannot solve other problems of homeless people. That is why the third solution seems the most appropriate because it focuses on deeper causes. In particular, this strategy advocates for providing people with mental health care to help them manage depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other conditions that typically prevent them from solving the problem under analysis.
Stakeholders and Key Roles
It is possible to implement the proposed solution if a few stakeholders perform their roles. Firstly, policymakers should adopt the proposed solution as a unified approach to solving the problem. Secondly, the city government is responsible for allocating the funds necessary for providing homeless people with mental health care. Thirdly, it is possible to rely on city workers, police officers, and outreach workers to ensure that many homeless individuals are aware of the program. This step is necessary because the target population should understand the potential benefits of participating in the intervention. Finally, mental health workers are essential because these stakeholders should address homeless people’s behavioral problems, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and others (The LBL Group, 2020). If all these roles are performed, homeless people, the primary stakeholders, will witness expected advantages.
Funding and Budget
The city government currently takes specific measures to address the problem of homelessness. As has already been mentioned, particular shelters exist, and they spend $60,000-$80,000 annually to provide service to a homeless person (Constant, 2021). Since the problem is becoming more crucial, one can state that the funds are not used efficiently, meaning that they can be relocated. Thus, the current proposal is to cut these expenses to obtain funds that will allow for providing mental health care. According to The LBL Group (2020), annual expenditures on a person with a mental health issue are slightly over $12,000. Thus, a significant challenge refers to cutting shelter financing, but the suggested strategy is cost-saving because it offers to address people’s traumas and help them overcome homelessness.
It is necessary to introduce a few criteria that can be used to evaluate the proposed program and support its implementation in other environments. Firstly, one should look at the number of homeless people in New York City before and after the intervention. A notable reduction in this figure can indicate that the program is effective. Secondly, it is reasonable to look at how many homeless people can successfully address mental issues because the proposed intervention aims to teach people how to respond to various behavioral problems (The LBL Group, 2020). Finally, a suitable approach will be to organize a survey among different stakeholders, including homeless people, mental health professionals, and city workers, to determine how they assess the effectiveness of the suggested strategy.
One should state that the suggested policy can provide many benefits. In particular, it is expected to reduce the number of homeless people in New York City, make it more attractive for locals and tourists, and lead to cost savings considering expenditures on mental health care (The LBL Group, 2020). Consequently, it is necessary to implement the offered intervention to address the significant problem. The policy deserves attention because it utilizes a non-traditional approach and offers to focus on people’s mental conditions rather than solely on building new houses. This strategy can help people overcome the existing psychological challenges and find the internal strength to cope with the situation.
Constant, P. (2021). Why mental health and social services are as crucial as physical shelter to address the homelessness crisis. Insider. Web.
Rukmana, D. (2020). The causes of homelessness and the characteristics associated with high risk of homelessness: a review of intercity and intracity homelessness data. Housing Policy Debate, 30(2), 291-308. Web.
The LBL Group. (2020). Behavioral health spending correlates with higher overall healthcare spending. Web.
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. (n.d.). New York homelessness statistics. Web.