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Obama builds on Bush success to help the homeless

The Bush administration focused mainly on the chronically homeless, whose numbers have dropped 30 percent since 2006. An Obama plan wisely builds on that foundation to help more of the homeless, such as families and veterans.

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To see what’s happening with the homeless population in America today, consider the following “30s.”

In the last three years, during the great recession, the number of people who are considered to be chronically homeless has decreased by 30 percent. Over the same time period, the number of homeless families who are temporarily living in shelters has increased by 30 percent, according to a report last week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The opposite trends show how far America has come in trying to solve homelessness, and where it needs to redouble its efforts.

The Obama administration is attempting that extra effort with a national plan to eliminate homelessness. The plan, required by Congress, seeks to end chronic and veterans homelessness in five years – 10 years for families, youth, and children.

Encouragingly, the strategy, titled “Opening Doors,” aims to build on the success of the last administration, which concentrated on reducing the numbers of chronically homeless. These are people who are mentally ill or otherwise disabled and who have been without a residence for at least a year, or who have been homeless several times over several years.

The Bush administration focused on this group because it is the most expensive and difficult homeless population for cities and counties to care for. Because of their disability, the long-term homeless often shuttle back and forth between shelters, detox centers, hospitals, and jails.

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