Cities Search for Best Ways to Help Homeless The Census Bureau estimates more than half a million people are homeless in the U.S. Many local governments have undertaken ambitious plans to try to end homelessness in their cities. Mike Rawlings, the so-called "Homeless Czar" of Dallas, Texas, talks about his efforts to end chronic homelessness in the city by 2014.

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LYNN NEARY, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington sitting in for Neal Conan.

Homelessness in America, it's a problem we stare in the face everyday. Often, we turn our heads trying to ignore it or we pretend we don't see it at all. Sometimes we might give someone money, a dollar or two, maybe five, to feel as if we've done our part. But at the end of the day, they're still there - the homeless. And we haven't really done a thing.

The most recent Census Bureau estimates say there are more than 740,000 homeless people in the United States. A study from the National Alliance to End Homelessness said there is - one in four homeless people are military veterans.

Many cities have undertaken ambitious plans to effectively end homelessness where they live. We'll be joined by one man who's volunteered to become the homeless czar of his city.

And later in the hour, Hugo Chavez is shot to become president for life. Venezuela's ambassador to the U.S. joins us.

But first, can we solve the problem of homelessness? If you've ever been homeless, give us a call. Our number here in Washington, 800-989-8255. Our e-mail address is talk@npr.org. And you can comment on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.

Joining us now is Mike Rawlings, homeless czar of Dallas. He joins us from Cake Mix Recording in Dallas.

Mike, so good to have you on the program.

Mr. MIKE RAWLINGS (Homeless Czar; Chairman, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance): Thank you for being interested. And it's good to be here.

NEARY: Now, a lot of cities have come up with plans to end homelessness. The Dallas plan calls for ending homelessness within 10 years. Why do you think this is one that's going to work?

Mr. RAWLINGS: Well, I think - first of all, when you deal with the problem like homelessness which has been around for decades and centuries in many ways, you have to take it apart, understand it, understand the situation, root cause. And you've got to have a big vision. And I think we've got a big vision. Then you've got to have a plan that's tested and kind of proven. You've got to get the right resources, the right people and the money. And then you've got to execute the measure. And we've got all those components in play so I think we've got a good chance of making it work. And we're on our way. We've seen results already.

NEARY: Now, the focal point, or at least one of the focal points, of the Dallas plan for ending homelessness seems to be what you call a Homeless Assistance Center.

Mr. RAWLINGS: Mm-hmm.

NEARY: Why is that so important and what is it?

Mr. RAWLINGS: Well, that's our first part of our four-part plan. In Dallas - and each plan across the nation, I think, is really customized to that situation in that place.

In Dallas, we did not have a 24-hour facility to be able to collocate all the services that the homeless need. The homeless need, besides just the basic hygiene, showers and restrooms and food, they need physical, health needs. They've got mental health needs. They've got job training needs. They've got VA needs. And we didn't have a place like that.

So we wanted to create a home for the homeless there in Dallas. So they are able to come, get the resources they need. And when they are able to do that, then they're going to be able to more easily springboard into our next step, which you mentioned earlier, which is giving them housing, permanent support of housing, and that's our next step of our plan.

NEARY: How is your center - and I know you've said it's not a shelter, you've said it's a springboard to the next step, that I've rather you said that we don't think of it as a shelter - How is it different from a traditional shelter?

Mr. RAWLINGS: Well, I think a traditional shelter is - its primary purpose is to get people in a bed and make sure that they're warm and they've got a place to sleep. We only are going to have 100 beds in our facility. We're going to have a sleeping area for more than that. But that's not the purpose of it. We spent a lot more money into counseling offices, into the places that they are able to get IDs and get all the legal aid they need - those sort of services.

So our focus is slightly different. We've got shelters in Dallas and we've got a lot of people that are doing that, and there are some good programs. There are a lot of homeless people that are shelter-resistant. And that's why we're going to allow this to be a 24-hour, come-as-you-go, very few rules sort of place that they can feel comfortable to come and be at and get the services they need.

NEARY: Now, I was going to ask you about that because a lot of homeless just won't go to shelters. And as you mentioned, rules - they don't like the rules that are enforced. They don't like the fact that…

Mr. RAWLINGS: Mm-hmm.

NEARY: … they spend the night there, they're kicked out of bed at a certain point, they go and come back at another point. But you are saying that you're not going to have those, you're not going to have rules.

Mr. RAWLINGS: Well, you now, one of the - obviously, it's going to be a safe place. They're not going to be able to bring drugs and alcohol and weapons. They are going to be a place that people feel safe. But we want this to be their facility, not our facility done for them. We're going to - it'll be a place that is very inviting. As I said, open 24 hours. We're not going to kind of close the doors like a lot of shelters do at a certain time of night and get everybody back on the streets at 6 o'clock in the morning. There won't be a program that people have to go to - that's one of the reasons some people don't like shelters. Some people walk away; they can't do that. And many shelters are do come with a cost. A $10 a night program that they just don't have the cash to do that.

NEARY: I want to make sure I understand this. So there will still be shelters in Dallas and the shelters will operate as they always have, traditionally giving people a place to get out of the cold or…

Mr. RAWLINGS: Right.

NEARY: …just for the night. Those would still be going on, you're saying this - the emphasis on this will not - will be more of a long-term care situation.

Mr. RAWLINGS: It will be more about being a springboard. People are going to come here to get the basic services they need. But then, we're going to put an intensive case management program in. We're raising $20 million of private money to match the city in county money so we can make sure that they get the case management they need.

I'll liken it to a restaurant. You know, you can go to a good restaurant and a waiter awaits a person might have only two or three tables. And you go to another place and there'll be six tables. Now, who's getting the better service? We want to make sure that we have the people that are getting the service that treat these people as the individuals they should be, customize the programs that they have, and our goals are going to be able to get them out as quickly as we can into permanent housing.

NEARY: We are talking with Mike Rawlings. He is the Metro Dallas homeless - he chairs the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance. And we are asking the question, can we solve homelessness?

We've got a call on the line from Brian(ph). He is calling from Eugene, Oregon.

Hi, Bryan.

BRIAN (Caller): Hi.

NEARY: Go ahead.

BRIAN: Yeah. My own mother is homeless, has been homeless on and off since I was kid - mostly on. And I feel like, you know, I'm not - I almost feel guilty like I don't give enough to try to help her out. But I realize there's not a whole lot I can do. I mean, she'd been in prison, she's been in rehab, she has mental health issues - that's really where she needs the most help with. But as a child of someone who's homeless - and, you know, I'm a college graduate, I have a good job, I'm married, I'm - you know, fairly successful. It's just it's really hard to know what I can do, what I should do, and to not feel guilty. I don't know if you're - the person you have on today could say anything abut that.

NEARY: Do you have any advice?

Mr. RAWLINGS: Well, you know, first of all, I think you got to do everything you can do. I mean, at least, as I look at myself, my family members - you've got to reach out. At some point, you know that your work with that person is getting diminishing returns. And you got to be realistic about that. So I'm not here to judge your actions or to opine on your situation. I do think your mother is not dissimilar than a lot of folks out there. That mental illness is such a root cause of this. And we, in this country, and specifically in Texas, we're very bad at funding and putting programs in place for mental illness.

And the most important thing is to see - though there's a lot of personal choices your mother made and a lot of homeless people make, the root cause there is they're just not just mentally right and they need the help there. So, I think that's what we're doing.

The third part of our plan in Dallas is to create a better focus on mental health, make more accountability and best practices. I'm fascinated that our mental health system in the United States isn't as clear on the best practices in the productive nature of mental health - help as the physical side of this thing is. And we've got to make progress in that regards.

NEARY: Thanks for you call, Brian.

BRIAN: Okay.

NEARY: I wanted to ask you, Mr. Rawlings, you know, I've read also that Dallas has passed some laws aimed at dealing with the homelessness particularly the problem of panhandling, which critics say are really punitive, you know, that people can be fined up to $2,000 for handing out free food. Is that correct?

Mr. RAWLINGS: There are some panhandling ordinances there in Dallas. It's something I don't agree with. I've talked to the city council about that, and as a businessman myself, I appreciate the issue. We're trying to revive downtown Dallas. It's up and going, it's doing great. We want to attract businesses, we want to attract people. They don't want to be accosted. It's a natural thing. So I think the conflict is understandable.

The question is what's the best answer and what's the best solution to this. As I said, we have taken best practices around the country and we're learning about this issue from cities like Denver and Baltimore that have approached this in a different fashion. Police don't like panhandling ordinances. It just creates problems for them, and it really doesn't dry panhandling down. But I think the lawmakers in Dallas decided that that would - they were going to send the signal to say, oh, we're doing a lot of great things for the homeless. We're going to ask that they don't get in people's face, ask them for money.

NEARY: In general, though, that does seem to be a sort of - maybe perhaps a way of putting it as a kneejerk response to the problem. If we get rid of the panhandlers, we've gotten rid of the problem.

Mr. RAWLINGS: I think so. And, you know, as you well know, a lot of panhandlers aren't homeless, you know, the - you know, so - I think it's dealing with another issue not really solving homeless problems. And that's why we, as a city - and I think the business community is coming around to this as well, the best solution for this is to solve our chronic homeless problem. And I think it's important to say, if what we're trying to do is not in homelessness per se by the year 2014, but in chronic homeless. And that's the hardcore folks that have been out there for over a year on the streets.

NEARY: Okay.

Mr. RAWLINGS: And…

NEARY: We're going to continue this discussion about the problem of homelessness and how cities can solve it. If you'd like to join our discussion, the number is 800-989-8255. I'm going to take a short break and then come back.

I'm Lynn Neary. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington.

Almost every big city faces the problem of homelessness and what to do about it. We've talked so far about Dallas' 10-year plan. Now, we want to know what's worked where you live. Give us a call. And if you ever been homeless, do you think we can solve the problem of homelessness? 800-989-8255. You can reach us by e-mail, the address is talk@npr.org.

Our guest is Mike Rawlings. He chairs the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, a position that's earned him the nickname the Dallas Homeless Czar. That's quite a nickname, Mike.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: And…

Mr. RAWLINGS: And stupid.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: …we're going to take a call now. We're going to go to Doug(ph), and Doug is calling from Washington State. Hi, Doug.

DOUG (Caller): Hi. I was homeless for about five years. Are you there?

NEARY: Yes, I'm here. I'm here.

DOUG: And I was brought out of it by an old woman who had a large yard and I mow her grass and take out the trash and some other chores like that. And I have $60 a month pension from my first job.

NEARY: And what brought you to homelessness in the first place, Doug? Maybe you could explain…

DOUG: I have a problem with depression. I tried to kill myself twice in 1989…

NEARY: Uh-huh.

DOUG: …and I spent three months in the state mental hospital, but it can be mitigated, I believe. It - I think what needs to be done is to build a job around me rather than expecting me to fit into existing systems, maybe shorter hours. I have a trouble with - I'm not emotionally resilient - depression.

NEARY: Did you find that you - there were services where you lived that were helpful to you or not? You're saying that in the end it was one woman who seemed to have helped you. Were there government services that were available to you that did help or not?

DOUG: Yeah. Yeah. I went to a homeless shelter a couple nights, but it's a disease-ridden place. It's crowded, full of people spitting and smoking, and a lot of drug addicts and alcoholics, and I'm not one of those. So I preferred to sleep out in the forest.

NEARY: In the forest.

DOUG: Illegal camping.

NEARY: I see. Mike Rawlings, I wonder…

Mr. RAWLINGS: Yeah.

NEARY: …if you could respond to what Doug is telling us.

Mr. RAWLINGS: Well, once again, you see the import of mental illness in this situation. And I'm so happy to hear that you're back off - out of the forest, if you will, and you're dealing with this. And I think it's so important. You mentioned at the front of the show the importance of getting housing and you said customized solutions, and that's what's called permanent support of housing.

It's - and housing first is a model that's being used across the United States. So you give your caller a key to an apartment and say this is your apartment. We're going to build some services around you. We're going to build some jobs around you, and we're going to give you the mental health needs you want. And now you are independent. Yes, you've got a lot of support, but this is much cheaper for a city to do it that way than deal with an individual that's on the streets.

A study show that these individuals can cost up to $100,000 a year with ambulance service and the police, we talked about the panhandling issue, the jails, all the services that are needed. A hundred thousand dollars put it against an apartment, some job training, some job - customized jobs and the mental health needs can go a long, long way, and you suddenly start to end chronic homelessness. And that's the job we're trying to do.

NEARY: Doug, before we let you go, does that sound right to you? Does that sound like…

DOUG: Yeah, it sounds like a good attempt. I believe I can work. And the problem is that I have an empty application. People are very mistrustful of me when I'm looking for work.

Mr. RAWLINGS: You know, one of the…

NEARY: Now, did you think you have a place - I'm sorry, did you say you do have a place to live now?

DOUG: I'm losing it, though. But I'm - I think I'll be all right. I'm going move in with my sister, I believe. Anyway…

Mr. RAWLINGS: And one of the…

DOUG: …I've had a couple of job experiences and they were just too tough…

NEARY: Yeah.

DOUG: …you know, you ride your bike across town to get to this warehouse sort of situation. You're out on the cold open air sawing wood, for example, all day long and mostly or two-thirds of the workers are Mexican. And those are sort of jobs I could get, and I have a degree in science. And it's just very - it's emotionally difficult for me. I, you know, I just have - I'm not resilient emotionally and I end up quitting these jobs. I got a job at a paint factory also there are health hazards and I was injured a couple of times.

NEARY: Well, Doug, I thank you very much for calling and sharing your story.

DOUG: Okay, bye.

NEARY: Bye-bye. So, Mike Rawlings, that sounds fairly…

Mr. RAWLINGS: Yeah.

NEARY: …typical to you?

Mr. RAWLINGS: It does. And furthermore, he said a lot of people don't trust me enough to give me a job. So many, at least in Dallas, I think across the city, are ex-offenders as well, and people don't want to hire an ex-felon, somebody that has been in prison. And that's a stigma that we've got to get around as well. We've got to create a way that's easier for employees to deal with that issue. And we've got to do some training on both sides of that phenomenon as we start to bridge this gap between normality and this estrangement that your caller just was feeling.

NEARY: I'd like to bring in our second guest now. Joining us from Byline(ph) Studios in San Francisco is Karen Gruneisen. She is managing attorney for HomeBase, a nonprofit, public policy law firm that works with communities to develop responses to homelessness.

Karen, welcome to the program.

Ms. KAREN GRUNEISEN (Managing Attorney, HomeBase): Thanks, Lynn.

NEARY: Now, San Francisco implemented a similar program a few years ago. Is that right? And if so, how has it worked?

Ms. GRUNEISEN: San Francisco does have a 10-year plan to end homelessness for people who HUD calls chronically homeless. It also has another plan, a continuum of care plan that's designed to work toward ending homelessness for all people. And the efforts of San Francisco, the efforts of Dallas, other communities have been quite considerable. But the truth is that none of our communities are going to be able to reach their goal of ending homelessness unless there's a much larger - excuse me - investment from the federal government.

The idea that we have 10-year plans, that we can end chronic homelessness, wasn't birthed out of the local communities, that is a federal initiative. And so it's not as if the federal government would turn to the localities and say, end homelessness, are you crazy? Rather, you can receive from the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness a toolkit to develop a plan, data, best practices to help inform your plan content. The executive director of the interagency council will come to your community and help engage local leaders in truly prioritizing a response to homelessness. And…

NEARY: What kind of problems have - has your program bumped up against so far? What kind of problem - I mean, you set out with the best of intentions, you're going to do it in 10 years. What you - what are the barriers? What do you hit?

Ms. GRUNEISEN: That we don't have the federal investments. So, sorry, what I was starting to paint was that the federal government says that we want to do this and we want to support you in doing this, but what it hasn't done is giving community - communities any additional resources in order to actually implement their plan.

So, if you were to ask Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco spends over $100 million on homeless services and housing, if you were to ask Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the people of the state of California passed a Mental Health Services Act by which $683 million are available for mental health services - a lot of those for people who are homeless - what's the number one thing that you all need in order to truly implement your plan to scale and end homelessness in your community? The answer is, we need a greater federal investment in housing. There's been a marked decrease in the amount of housing which HUD has produced over the years.

There has been a slight increase in the number of Section 8 vouchers that are available to people to subsidize the units once the units are built. But, still, one in four people who qualify for those vouchers, only one in four have them, so three out of four don't have them.

NEARY: Mike Rawlings, what's your reaction to what you're hearing from Karen? Do you agree…

Mr. RAWLINGS: Well, I…

NEARY: …that there's not enough federal investment in - that you can't really accomplish much, if you don't have the money from the feds?

Mr. RAWLINGS: Those were two different questions. I think that we want and need more federal money. To sit on the sidelines for us and waiting for that to happen is not a good answer. So we've got just get on with it and try to solve this issue. I do agree as well that affordable housing is a crisis that major urban cities across the United States are facing. And we do - it is so difficult even if you've got a job, even if you've got some sort of minimal income to be able to get an apartment that you can afford and - that's near your workplace. So we've got to start to solve the issue. And that's a major root cause of homelessness as well.

NEARY: And do both of you see this problem getting worse with the housing problems that we're having, where we're hearing people going through foreclosure and that sort of thing - losing their homes, Karen?

Ms. GRUNEISEN: Yes.

Mr. RAWLINGS: Yeah, I agree, too.

NEARY: Is - do you see the problem increasing, Karen or Mike?

Mr. RAWLINGS: I do, too. I agree.

NEARY: Yeah.

Mr. RAWLINGS: It's - every urban environment is going to be dealing with this.

NEARY: Yeah. Let me just ask you, Karen, if you've seen any accomplishments at all in what you've set out to do? I mean, granting what you've already said about need for greater federal - I mean, in your own program, has homelessness been affected at all? Had numbers gone down at all?

Ms. GRUNEISEN: There certainly have been accomplishments. There are additional services for people who are in housing - not enough, but there are additional ones. There are additional units within the city as well. There are additional folks who are out on the street outreaching to people who are living there, to provide them with opportunities. We've had some successes with plans to start transitioning people out of jails into housing and services.

And another thing that I think that's important is that the people in San Francisco are talking about homelessness sometimes, not always, using the rhetoric that I would like. But I think it's important for us in having plans to end homelessness searching for all of the resources to implement those plants that the people in the community believe that homelessness in the community can be eliminated. And part of the challenge of that is for us to be clear about what we mean when we say that. None of our 10-year plans are going to end poverty, and they aren't going to ensure that education systems graduate students who can earn a living wage. And we aren't going to get rid of the gene that causes addictive or mental illness through our plans. We aren't going to change the hearts of partners who batter partners or end racism.

But what our plans can do when they're fully implemented, fully funded, is to have interventions at the ready. Our full compliment of services and housing, whether that means that you're keeping your housing or it means that you're regaining housing, are available to folks who need it. And the folks who need it will know that the resources are available. And we won't be saying to the folks, sorry, you've entered the system through the wrong door and you need to try again some place else. And we're going to treat people and deliver services and housing in a manner that's respectful to cultures and disabilities and preferences and people's civil rights.

NEARY: We're talking about homelessness and how to solve it. If you'd like to join the discussion, the number is 800-989-8255.

And you are listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

We're going to take a call now. We're going t go to Brian(ph) in Louisville. Brian?

Hi, Brian. Go on ahead.

BRIAN (Caller): Yes. Hello?

NEARY: Go ahead.

BRIAN: Ah, yes. I have been homeless and I am not, although it seems as though every month I'm right on the edge of going back. I'm a recovering alcoholic and continue to work the program. That biggest obstacle that I've seen in working with other people who are homeless and other recovering alcoholics and addicts is the access. It's just red tape. There is so much work involved in just getting someone from point A to point B - and you're talking about going from A to Z.

And when you can get them that far, they end up in a situation that is sometimes so detrimental that they're almost - and I hate to say this - better off on the streets because of the inability of local police forces to put - to rid - and I know drugs are a problem everywhere, I was an addict myself, but - and an alcoholic myself, but to clean up the housing that's available to people like myself and to other people who are currently in that situation. And how do you get past that red tape and how do you make the housing safe? And I can get my answer off the air. I'll just…

NEARY: All right, Brian. Thanks for those questions.

I'm going to ask both Karen and Mike to respond. Mike, go ahead first.

Mr. RAWLINGS: Yeah. I think this is a great example. I'm amazed at the bureaucracy that we as a society have set up for people that have such difficulty just doing the basic things. Some of the things that these folks have to do, I don't want to do. You know, I mean I'm a person that should be able to get them done.

We have - if we want to solve the problem, we've got to stop acting like this is a ladder that people have got to climb. And we've got to treat it more as a solution that we ask them to be a part of this, to come into the solution. And then once we've created a safety environment for them that that they didn't have to earn, then they are able to start to get sober, and then they are able to stay on their meds. And this is what we're seeing all over the place. And congratulations for being sober and stay sober.

NEARY: Karen, go ahead.

Ms. GRUNEISEN: It's - to add to what Mike said, not only do folks have to do so many things in some communities to access services and housing but they have to do the same thing over and over in dealing with each agency what which they interact. And that is a benefit, too, I think, that's come out of a lot of communities' 10-year planning which is where they're not just focusing on is there enough of a kind of service, do we have the kinds of housing that we need, but also working at how services and housing are delivered, how can there be better coordination and integration, so that we don't cause folks who would otherwise access services for housing to say, forget it.

Mr. RAWLINGS: This is one of the reasons we are doing our Homeless Assistance Center. It's going to be able to make it easier for a person like that to deal with some of the bureaucracies. It's going to be in one location, someone's going to be able to walk that person around and get it done quickly as opposed to getting out all over the town. They don't have transportation and it's exhausting. By the time you go to two offices, people say, forget it.

NEARY: Mike, stay with us.

And, Karen Gruneisen, thanks so much for joining us today.

Ms. GRUNEISEN: Thank you.

NEARY: Karen Gruneisen is managing attorney for HomeBase. She joined us from a studio at Byline Recording in San Francisco.

We're going to continue our discussion about homelessness after a short break. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington. Neal Conan is away.

But first, we are wrapping up our conversation about trying to solve the problem of homelessness.

And joining us now is Jennifer Friedenbach. She's the executive director for the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco.

Jennifer, thanks for being with us.

Ms. JENNIFER FRIEDENBACH (Executive Director, Coalition on Homelessness): Thanks for having me.

NEARY: We've already had a discussion about some of what's going in San Francisco. Maybe we want to hear from you what are some of the problems you see in the San Francisco model?

Ms. FRIEDENBACH: Well, I just wanted to start of by talking about the homeless issue in general. And homeless people - to quote a scholar and writer, Lisa Gray-Garcia, "They are not a tribe of people who are marching over the planet. They are simply poor people. And there's fundamentally no difference between poor people who are housed and poor people who are homeless. There's only one difference, and that is that poor folks who are housed have access to some form of affordable housing."

NEARY: Unfortunately, on this show and we don't have much time left, Jennifer. We really are focusing on the homeless.

Ms. FRIEDENBACH: Right.

NEARY: If you could just address that in just a few minutes.

Ms. FRIEDENBACH: Yeah, which is exactly what I was doing. So when we're talking about homelessness, we need to talk about the structural causes of homelessness - the fact that the federal government completely dismantled federal affordable housing at the same time that our community-based mental health treatments were dismantled while our economy went over to a service sector. And so the answer to homelessness is not complicated. We solved homelessness in this country before and we can solve it again. We solved it after the Great Depression and then we went and dismantled the social safety net that was put in place during that era. And that's what we have today, which is, you know, hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children living on the streets.

And I think in terms of Dallas, in terms of San Francisco and communities around the country, what has happened is that the response to that has been too focused on criminal justice side of things, to use police to move poor people and homeless people out of business and tourism areas, and that the federal government's response has been to throw crumbs at the problem and at the same time using a machete to continue to slice at our social safety net in creating more and more and more homeless people. So we now have more homeless people that we've had in this country since the Great Depression.

NEARY: All right. We're going to take another call now from Andrea(ph), she's in Jackson, Mississippi, I believe.

Hi, Andrea.

ANDREA (Caller): Yes.

NEARY: Yes. Go ahead.

ANDREA: I live in Jackson, Michigan. And one of our biggest employers here which is the state prison has shut down. Now, my issue is I've been homeless several times throughout the year; there aren't any jobs to be had here. I've just driven a mile and saw 14 houses for sale or for rent, but nobody can afford to get in.

NEARY: Let me ask you, Mike Rawlings, because we started out with you in Dallas. You're talking about this center which you're saying will be a place that the homeless can come to for a number of services. Will finding jobs be part of the services over there?

Mr. RAWLINGS: It's got to be. And that's one of the core tenets of this. People that want to work we want to get them work and match them together. Fortunately, Dallas has jobs. We don't do a good matching them up to the needy the way we need to. And that's going to take some work, but we can make that happen.

Ms. FRIEDENBACH: And that jobs…

NEARY: Jennifer?

Ms. FRIEDENBACH: Yeah. Jobs, treatment and housing - and, you know, those are three fundamentals and we don't have them right now and we need to have them. And I think what we've kind of done overtime is that we've lost the sense that there are structural causes of homelessness and have since kind of shifted to this idea that people are choosing to be on the street so that there's behavioral problems that are causing them to be on the streets. And in essence, kind of blaming the victim in terms of why people are homeless.

And this has been a really problematic approach. And we've seen it in San Francisco. So what we've seen in San Francisco - and I'm a member of the 10-year planning council and so I'm part of this - is that we've had this focus on chronic homelessness and what that puts us in a position of is having to choose between - and this is happening with the federal funding where it's focusing on chronic homelessness - we're having to choose between whether to house the person who is aged, living on the streets with a psychiatric disability, or make a choice between that person and the baby of a homeless family. And it's a choice we shouldn't have to be making in such an affluent country. And just to give an example, we spend in the United States two times as much on one Virginia-class attack submarine than we do on all the federal money going through McKinney - twice as much.

NEARY: You know, I'd like to hear you both talk about this question. But before I do, I want to ask Andrea. I don't know if you've been listening Andrea and how much you've been listening to the show, but I'm curious to hear what your take is on what you're hearing. Are you hearing solutions to the problems you're encountering here and what are the things you're hearing that make the most sense to you?

ANDREA: Well, the problems we encounter here is well, for one, Jackson County in Michigan, we have the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

NEARY: So for you, it's really a question of…

ANDREA: So, I mean, there are no jobs to be had…

NEARY: Right.

ANDREA: …much less, you know, people who can afford to even pay rent month to month. I've just got into subsidized housing after a two-and-a-half-year wait and I only became eligible because I had a child. Now, for all those that, you know, do not have children, there is no help for them here.

NEARY: All right. Well, thank you so much, Andrea, for joining in our discussion. And just - we're going to ask both of you a final question. Mike Rawlings, I'd like you to respond to Jennifer's point that - you're making a choice between somebody called - who are called the chronically homeless and, you know, somebody - a child whose parent has recently, perhaps, lost a job, lost a home and is not a - fit into that definition of chronic homelessness.

Mr. RAWLINGS: You know, Jim Collins in his book talks about the tyranny of the or and the genius of the and. And I think this is a classic example of that. We've got to be a land of geniuses where we say we can do both. We don't have to make that choice. So I agree 100 percent, but it's got to be through creative thinking. It's got to be through thoughtful planning and hard work and we can do it.

I mean in Dallas, we had 1,000 chronic homelessness two years ago. We're down to 620 the - last February when we counted them one night. So with that planning, it can be done. It does need more resources and we shouldn't make an either-or situation.

NEARY: All right. Well, thanks to both of you. We've ran out of time now. Mike Rawlings chairs the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance. He's known as Dallas' homeless czar. And Jennifer Friedenbach is executive director for the Coalition on Homelessness. She joined us from the studios of Byline Recording in San Francisco.

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