National statistics in the rate of homelessness have not changed much over time, according to University of Chicago researchers Bruce Meyer, Kevin Corinth, and Angela Wyse. But national trends mask substantial divergences across states: double digit increases in some states, such as California and New York, that might even be underestimated.
Amid partisan bickering and virtue signaling, few structural solutions have been pursued over the years, exacerbating the homelessness crisis. Recognizing the need for greater understanding, rather than more debating, Robert Craig Films – an award-winning producer – recently debuted with a feature film called No Address that shares a story about group of homeless people who bond together as a family while struggling to survive the streets, fending off a harassing gang, an unforgiving community, and the local authorities in hopes of finding their humanity again.
A substantial portion of the homeless population struggles with chronic mental health conditions: 78% of the unsheltered homelessness population reported having mental health conditions and 75% of the unsheltered population reported having substance abuse conditions, according to a 2019 study by the California Policy Lab at the University of California.
But many others also fall into homelessness due to idiosyncratic personal circumstances, like the loss of a spouse, or deteriorating economic conditions. The increase has been concentrated particularly in cities that have experienced a surge in their cost of living due to constraints on housing supply, according to Jialu Streeter at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
No Address is based on true stories and the reality of the homeless experience based on hundreds of hours spent by the producers visiting shelters, missions, and organizations that are on the front lines of providing services and solutions. “On a single night in America, 1.2 million adults and 1.5 million children are experiencing homelessness. The status quo is not working. We need solutions to homelessness that focus on root causes and recovery, not short-term gimmicks,” said Robert G. Marbut, a world-renowned expert and former executive director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness. “No Address helps people understand this plight with beautiful and compelling storytelling and, most importantly, how they can help.”
The objective of the film is to bring awareness, empathy, and personal activation through the movie, demonstrating the human side of homelessness to build compassion and mobilize people towards action. “I felt that producing the movie No Address would bring a whole new light on the homeless crisis in a way that can’t be portrayed on the news or in a documentary. You can see they are real people, they are just like you and me, they need help just like you and me, they have dreams like you and me, and deserve to be respected, honored and looked after just like anyone else,” said Robert Craig. Robert Craig Films is collaborating with corporate partners who share the same vision and wish to support people who need a helping hand to establish a safe and secure life.
“Huge sums of government money have been thrown at the problem of homelessness, yet the number of people experiencing homelessness has skyrocketed… the time has come for real reform in the federal government that addresses homelessness,” Marbut continued. But much of the success in dealing with homelessness is coming from a local, not federal level.
Jersey City, NJ, has been a pioneer with a 25% reduction in homelessness between 2021 and 2022, according to the latest annual statistics. Led by Mayor Steven Fulop, they have taken a multi-pronged approach. To address short-term needs, in September 2021 they partnered with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, among others, to construct a brand new, 60,000 square foot homeless services facility, including emergency and transitional offerings together with multiple affordable housing solutions and comprehensive supportive services for individuals and families.
Later that year in April, Mayor Fulop announced an expansion of $2 million with the Jersey City Housing Authority and the Department of Health and Human Services. The resources would be allocated towards increasing services for the homeless, such as permanent shower facilities and free laundry, and expanding case management operations and mental health services.
“From the start of my administration, we have worked to find outside-the-box solutions to address the stubborn systemic issues that disproportionately affect urban areas most – homelessness being a priority. From opening free public showers and food services for the homeless in Journal Square to the new St. Lucy’s shelter offering supportive, health, and transitional services to our recent partnership with HUD’s All-Hands-on-Deck program - while homelessness skyrocketed in cities nationwide over the past three years, here in Jersey City we have been successful in providing critical resources and services to reduce homelessness,” said Steven Fulop, mayor of Jersey City.
Beyond addressing the short-term needs of the homeless, Mayor Fulop recently established the Affordable Housing Overlay to build upon the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance and encourage the growth of affordable housing citywide. The city is continuing to reimagine public housing so that it includes opportunities for affordable home ownership.
The hope is that a more genuine understanding of the challenges that the homeless face will induce the compassion necessary to advocate and pass truly meaningful policy reforms that make it easier to expand the supply of housing and revitalize entry-level jobs that can help the homeless get on track with a sustainable income stream and reskilling roadmap.