Homelessness is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart. It’s the focus of my volunteer work and the business model behind Big Change Advisors. Because of this, I follow the issue of homelessness closely – the progress, the challenges, and statistics.
What has intrigued me in many of the news reports recently is the concept of NIMBYism. The term means that people often want to see solutions to homelessness, but they prefer those solutions be “not in my backyard.” Some say this mindset is creating challenges that go beyond red tape and funding.
Are backyards needed?
The LA Times reports there has been a modest improvement in the rate of homelessness – a 3% decrease in rates over last year. Rates on Skid Row showed a 7% decline, while rates in several counties showed increases.
The fact that there are any decreases at all indicates that some strategies are working. But as fast as people are moving off the streets, still more people are entering them, reports show. Still, more supportive housing and affordable housing is needed to continue any progress.
This leads experts to what they say is the bigger challenge: The funding may be there, but folks still don’t want solutions too close to them – solutions that affect their daily living, quality of life, or property values. It indeed sounds elitist and heartless, especially when we think about women, children and veterans trying to survive.
At the same time, other cities are embracing their NIMBYism. They’re implementing solutions for the homeless while insisting that those solutions don’t infringe on people who have homes. They hold steadfast to their taxes, laws and commitment to “public safety” as the right approach to ending homelessness.
Steps forward, steps backward
There are two sides. And it seems no one wants to appear heartless, nor have a homeless person in their driveway. Meanwhile, issues on the street continue. On a positive note, the LA Times reports more public bathrooms were installed on Skid Row. On a negative note, they were since removed, and plans to open more are stalled.
And today’s numbers – whether increasing or decreasing in some areas – still remain high:
- This year more than 9,000 people became homeless for the first time, up 8,000 from last year
- About 3,900 veterans remain homeless
- And there are 3,306 homeless youth
The mindset of “not in my backyard” brings up, for me, a direct tie to the mindset of “not my problem.” True, many people agree that more funding, supportive housing, mental health services, affordable housing, domestic violence treatment and more are all needed. But the urgency to implement these solutions gets lost when people are not directly impacted themselves.
Safe in their backyards, they are not personally affected by what the homeless are experiencing. This is why I was intrigued by a comment Daniel Flaming, president of Economic Roundtable, reportedly said in calling for quicker action to end homelessness:
“I think it would be a good idea for us,
the analysts and providers, to move our desks onto the sidewalk
so the problem becomes more immediate and urgent for us.”
Keep on keeping on
While I doubt anyone is going to move their desks to the sidewalk anytime soon, this statement does remind me of the empathy and humanity that’s needed in ending homelessness. It may involve our backyards, or it may not. It may not be “directly” our problem, but it is all of our problems. We have work to do, and to get to solutions, we have to remember that we’re all in this together.
Steve Pomeroy is the founder of Big Change Advisors, a Los Angeles M&A advisory firm of business advisors and capital sourcing advisors for startups and middle-market companies. Since 1992, Steve has completed over 38 transactions including M&A, Capital Sourcing, and Public Offerings representing over $800 million in total transaction value. Through Big Change Advisors, Steve donates a percentage of all fees – or invites clients to donate a portion of Big Change Advisors fees – to help serve the homeless through the Los Angeles Mission. To request a free consultant, contact Steve here.