Rosanne Haggerty discusses the effect Covid-19 has had on homelessness and the tools we need to take action to address homelessness as a public health issue. She participated in the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center residency in 2009.
How is this moment evolving your thinking about the challenge of homelessness?
We need to fully embrace public health as the right frame for the kind of problem homelessness is, and where we might need to go to actually eliminate it. The end goal is to have the energy focused on prevention. These are problems that are solved at the system level, they’re not a problem of individual behavior or misfortune. We can design society so that we don’t have this problem.
What tools do we need and what action do we need to take in order to effectively address homelessness?
There’s no magic solution to systems, problems that don’t involve quality data, and people working in teams. What we’ve learned about homelessness is communities that actually start by ending the problem, start solving it once they understand thats the job to be done, as opposed to providing services to homeless people. If everything you’re doing in a community for people now homeless is aimed at a measurable process of getting to zero and staying there, where it’s not an expected condition, that’s how you actually have to set things up.