The Long Haul
Dainette Mintz has never accepted homelessness. After decades, she is both realistic and strategic in her approach to it. When she retired as director of the Philadelphia’s Office for Supportive Housing earlier this month, after thirty-two years working against poverty and homelessness, she reflected on the shift in the landscape: “Philadelphia has one of the nation's most productive and respected homeless housing strategies. The city has achieved consistent reductions in street homelessness.”
She attributes this achievement to effective coalitions among those working against homelessness as well as strategies that work to quickly re-house those who have lost homes. She points to how the mayor, City Council, nonprofit service agencies, and public housing agencies have worked together to create sustained support for effective housing policies. Philadelphia has also invested in the creation of long-term housing units dedicated to the homeless. Project HOME is honored to partner with many courageous people and organizations across this city in this work.
Yet Dainette Mintz leaves with us with a word of warning: “As Philadelphia continues to have a 26.3 percent poverty rate (the highest of the nation's largest cities) and as local affordable housing decreases, these realities add to the ongoing and increasing demand. Low-income and poor citizens turn to the homeless system as their only option to meet housing needs. Unfortunately, this demand for housing assistance is directed at a homeless system with no empty beds on any given day or night.”
She adds: “Given the poverty rate and the lack of affordable housing, the local goal to end homelessness will remain just a goal. Philadelphia can, however, prevent and dramatically reduce how long a person is homeless. My years of experience tell me that the City must increase its affordable housing production, expand homeless prevention programs, and invest in homeless diversion strategies to address the housing demand and needs of its low-income and poor residents.”
The solutions to homelessness take public willpower and investment. Ultimately, such solutions hinge on addressing poverty and creating affordable housing. Dainette Mintz understands how, over time, public policies can change the playing field. “My approach was to work hard, be responsible, consistent, honest and fair.”
Her commitment inspires all of us to take heart and work as she did. We are in this work for the long haul--because it is healing and because it is possible.