Social Mobility Along the Continuum of Care GCP-98-3

Charles Hoch,  Lynette Bowden
Charles Hoch Professor in the Urban Planning and Policy Program in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Lynette Bowden  former research assistant at the Great Cities Institute.

The homeless problem now enjoys a settled if marginal place in U.S. domestic policy. Programs to treat and remedy the homeless problem have also found acceptance and become integrated within a “continuum of care.” In this essay we argue that current ideas about the problem and its solutions emphasize social mobility for the poor-a mobility that existing empirical research does not support. The overemphasis on framing versions of social dependence as the problem has encouraged the use of shelters and social programs to change individual households rather than increasing the kinds and amounts of low-rent housing available.
To illustrate the limits on mobility, we review current evidence on shelter use. Providing supportive housing to remedy the privations of the poor does make good sense, but mainly if it is organized to strengthen social reciprocity among households in affordable residential communities. This not only requires social investment, but also innovative design and use of affordable housing alternatives. A brief case study provides an example.

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