In her Oct. 7 column “A safety net that leave them out” (Page A1), Yvonne Abraham tells one woman’s heart-wrenching story of the tragedies that befall struggling families when they lack a safe place to call home. In doing so, however, Abraham leaves the impression of a heartless bureaucracy, and leaves out much of the unprecedented effort the Patrick administration has made to eliminate homelessness to begin with.
As a candidate in 2006, Deval Patrick insisted that economic and housing policy fell morally short if it didn’t attack homelessness head on. And unlike many of his predecessors as governor, he actually made it a priority, creating in 2007 an Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness that drove a major shift in policy, from a shelter-based approach to one focusing on permanent housing solutions.
Changing a decades-old approach is difficult: The regulations that Abraham notes went into effect in August are just the latest of many steps toward moving 1,800 families out of expensive hotels, and another 2,000 families out of shelters.
Transitioning to this new approach is not perfect, as Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary for housing and community development, notes in Abraham’s article. However, it will lead not only to better housing for homeless families in the long run, but also savings of tens of millions of public dollars.
Your readers are best served by reporting not only failings in the system, but also what is finally going in the right direction.
The writer cochaired Deval Patrick’s housing transition team in 2006.