Kevin_Corinth_300x225Should you give a homeless person money or food, or just keep walking? It’s a quandary many Americans face, especially those who live in big cities. Homelessness raises other questions as well. How can we reduce the problem? How do the data misrepresent the issues? In what cities are there real “states of emergency”? And are shelters for the homeless – a seemingly obvious solution to the profile – actually effective in solving the greater social problems that homelessness embodies?

I sat down with AEI’s Kevin Corinth to get some of the answers. Kevin Corinth is a research fellow in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on homelessness and the programs and policies put in place to assist the homeless. Corinth has a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Boston College and a master’s and doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago, where he was also a lecturer.

So take a listen. And for more, see some his research on housing versus shelters here, on homeless families here, street homelessness here, and homelessness and the Christmas Spirit here.

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There are 5 comments.

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  1. MarciN Member

    This was a very informative and interesting discussion. I give Mr. Pethokoukis a lot of credit for using the podcast time to tackle the general public’s perceptions about the causes of homelessness.

    Mr. Corinth is admirable for his focus on people who are actually homeless at any given moment, as opposed to doubled-up family situations.

    I had a friend who was schizophrenic and homeless, and I spent a great part of life trying to help her with the services and resources available. Homelessness is a subject of great importance to me because I share Mr. Corinth’s notion of the humanity of each person. No one deserves this, and among the destitute people I have known, I have yet to find anyone who wants to live this way. You would almost have to be mentally ill to survive the way other people treat you when you are homeless.

    There are many things to say about the kinds of help people need once they have a space they can call their own with a bathroom, closet, and bed, but we are not going to be able help people meaningfully until that is in place. So I am supportive of the Housing First initiative Mr. Corinth mentioned. The social workers I have spoken with over the years have told me that there are simply not the rental units available to meet the need.


    • #1
  2. MarciN Member

    [continued from comment 1]

    I also believe homelessness can be prevented. We know there are certain life-breaking points at which people are vulnerable, and they are all identifiable transitions: graduation or dropping out from high school; young people who have “aged out” of foster care (not a small number of people); divorce; prison; disability; and unemployment.

    Which brings me to the most important point that was not mentioned and in fact seldom is in such discussions: We have had and continue to have serious rental housing shortages in this country.

    This is where I would start in fixing this problem. There are few rental units available to house people in these transitions noted above. This has been a chronic problem in every major city and community across the country for thirty years. There are many reasons, but the bottom line is the United States has not kept up with housing unit production. The housing units do not exist into which social workers can move people in need. On Cape Cod where I live, there is a two- to three-year waiting list for Section 8 housing; there is a three- to five-year waiting list for elderly housing. Forget assisted living units. They do not begin to meet the need in numbers. It is a serious problem. Housing shortages lead to slums and everything other bad thing we don’t want.

    It is infuriating that the left hand doesn’t communicate with the right hand on housing and homelessness.

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  3. MarciN Member

    [continued from 2]

    Increasing rental housing options across the country would be a great positive direction for conservatives to go. Take on zoning regulations. Maybe just build new towns across the country using our highway system (capitalizing on the Home Depot effect–whole communities that have sprung up around the Home Depots that were build on the high exits). What kills me is that there is money to made here and jobs to be created.

    There is a serious lack of realistic thinking about homelessness. A home will help enormously in getting a person back on his feet. This shared-housing problem is a part of it–because that will ultimately lead to chronic and permanent homelessness too. A person not living independently after a while has some serious mental health issues caused just by not being financially independent. I have seen recently that a third of the millennials are living with their parents. I’m sure many of these situations are good, but I am equally sure it is frustrating for the young person. It is impossible without some self-esteem to present oneself favorably to even get a job.

    We can fix this.

    With adequate housing options, people could move easily to areas with high unemployment. We would have a flexibility in our economy that we presently lack.

    Instead of raising the minimum wage, please let us raise apartment complexes and assisted living complexes.

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  4. MarciN Member

    Just one more comment:

    Community care for schizophrenics is an as-yet-unrealized possibility.

    Schizophrenia strikes relatively predictably at three ages: 17, 22, and 35. The prognosis for late-onset schizophrenia is the best.

    Of the schizophrenic population that is being cared for, the prognosis is pretty good. A third will experience remission after one course of treatment with antipsychotics. A third can live relatively normal lives on a steady constant low dose of antipsychotics. A third will never be well enough even with the help of antipsychotics to live independently.

    There have been some exciting breakthroughs over the years in rehabilitation too. A quick Google search for “rehabilitation for schizophrenia” turns up over a million results.

    Money continues to be the biggest barrier to getting care for severely mentally ill people. But remission is possible for most people.

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  5. Freesmith Inactive

    If you really want a treat and to hear Mr. Corinth in the tone which best suits the tenor of his feelings/thoughts, listen to the last three minutes of this podcast at 1/2 speed.

    • #5
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