‘Two societies, one black, one white’ – the Kerner Commission’s prophetic warnings


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National Guardsmen move into Detroit’s riot-torn area, July 23, 1967.

Donald Nieman, Binghamton University, State University of New York

On July 23, 1967, Detroit exploded in rioting. Five days later, 43 were dead, 7,200 had been arrested and US$22 million worth of property had been destroyed.

It was just the latest in a string of more than 100 disturbances that shook American cities during “the long, hot summers” of the mid-1960s.

Before the embers cooled, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the National Commission on Civil Disorders to investigate. The panel became known popularly as the Kerner Commission, after its co-chair Otto Kerner, the Democratic governor of Illinois.

Johnson announces the establishment of the Kerner Commission in 1967.

Fifty years ago, on Feb. 29, 1968, the commission issued its report. As a historian of civil rights in the U.S., I’m struck by how the power of institutional racism so trenchantly revealed by the report constrains efforts to advance racial equity 50 years later.

Taproot of violence: White racism

As the report masterfully described, these “racial disorders” were really urban uprisings. They were sparked by poverty, unemployment, discrimination in housing and education, police brutality and a sense of powerlessness among inner city residents.

The taproot, however, was white racism, which the commission found “responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War II.”

The situation was dire. According to the report, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal.”

To avert this catastrophe, the commission demanded “a commitment to national action on an unprecedented scale.”

Riots erupted in New York’s Harlem neighborhood in July 1974, after a white police officer shot a black teenager.

It recommended creation of public-sector jobs, construction of low- and moderate-income housing, urban school desegregation, expanded early childhood education, welfare benefits at least equal to the poverty level and legislation to end housing discrimination.

Recognizing the role of the police in sparking violence, commissioners urged development of “innovative programs to insure widespread community support for law enforcement” and the hiring of more black police. They also demanded that police cease using massive force in the form of “automatic rifles, machine guns, and tanks.”

The report seized public attention. Covered widely in the press, it was issued as a paperback by Bantam books and sold 740,000 copies within two weeks of its release. Its chilling “two societies” phrase became part of the national vocabulary.

Harsh words, but little action

Impact was another matter.

President Johnson, confronting budget deficits, rising inflation, defeat in Vietnam and growing criticism from the right and left, offered tepid support. And his successor, Richard Nixon, rode to victory promising to restore law and order, not to support an ambitious civil rights agenda.

During the ensuing 50 years, retrospectives on the report surfaced on anniversaries and in the aftermath of highly publicized urban uprisings in Los Angeles, Ferguson, Baltimore and Staten Island.

Its effect on policy, however, has been modest. It helped spur passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which aimed to end the residential segregation of American neighborhoods. Coupled with additional legislation passed in the 1970s and 1980s and the growth of the black middle class, the act has facilitated modest gains in residential integration.

Demonstrators across the street from the Ferguson, Missouri, police department in March 2015.
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

There are now far more African-American police officers than in 1968, but this is due more to litigation and political gains by African-Americans in major cities than the report’s influence. White officers still make up a disproportionate share of police, especially in inner suburbs like Ferguson, Missouri, where the recent movement of black families into the city has changed the racial demographic.

Other recommendations obtained even less traction. Welfare has become less generous, thanks to the welfare reform adopted in 1995 under President Bill Clinton, and police are as much of a flash point as they were in the 1960s, exacting a terrible toll on urban and suburban black communities.

Why the lack of action?

Five decades of uneven economic growth and federal budget deficits bred resistance to expensive new programs. In addition, the commission’s recommendations on law enforcement relied on action by state and local government, which were often reluctant to act.

But racism is the most important factor.

Has racism diminished?

Polls reveal a decline in racist sentiments among whites since the 1960s.

Nevertheless, a 2012 AP poll found that 56 percent of non-Hispanic whites held explicit or implicit anti-black attitudes. Other recent polls have revealed that a majority of whites believe that whites work harder than blacks and that the country talks too much about race.

Persistent racism has been exploited by many Republicans – Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump to name a few – to woo working-class white Northerners and turn the South red.

Republican resurgence after 1968 – Democrats have controlled both Congress and the White House for only for only six of the past 50 years – has created partisan gridlock on civil rights, killing serious consideration of the commission’s bold recommendations.

Sadly, the report’s fundamental insight remains as relevant today as 50 years ago.

“What white Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget – is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto,” the report asserted.

“White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

The ConversationI’m encouraged by how Black Lives Matter has once again shattered the nation’s complacency about race. The movement reminds Americans that we have not overcome and that institutional racism remains an intractable barrier to equity. It has shattered illusions that the U.S. has become a post-racial society and challenged the nation to grapple with the ugly realities the Kerner Commission laid bare.

Donald Nieman, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, Binghamton University, State University of New York

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Schools shouldn’t wait for red flags to address student mental health needs


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Students who need mental health services rarely receive them.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

Nathaniel von der Embse, University of South Florida

One out of every 4 or 5. That’s how many students will display a significant mental health problem over the course of their lifetime.

Such students can be identified early with considerable accuracy if educators are given the right training and tools. Unfortunately, most schools rely on reactive methods, like office discipline referrals, to figure out which students need behavioral and mental health services.

Research shows this approach of waiting until students act out in school is inefficient and leads to as many as 80 percent of those with mental health needs to fall through the cracks.

Such concerns have heightened in the wake of the Parkland high school massacre. News reports indicate the alleged shooter exhibited a number of troubling behaviors, raising questions about his mental health status and whether more could have been done to help him sooner.

To address the issue of students falling through the cracks, more schools should adopt proactive, universal screening tools.

Universal screening typically occurs three times throughout the school year: fall, winter and spring. Screeners are brief assessments that take no more than a few minutes to complete. They include approximately 20 questions and are given to each student in the elementary classroom. These tools ask students to indicate things such as “I lose my temper” or whether they are “adaptable to change.” The questions are purposefully broad and are meant to identify students who may be at risk for either internal problem behaviors, such as anxiety or depression, or external problem behaviors, such as aggression toward others. The screenings are scored and used to prioritize which students need intervention.

Screeners are typically administered without parental consent if they are embedded into the general school curriculum.

Research shows that screening tools can help educators identify students with mental health needs with far greater accuracy and speed, rather than waiting for a severe problem behavior, such as a school fight.

I developed one such tool – the Social, Academic and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener, or SAEBRS – with the help of several grants, including $1.4 million from the Institute for Educational Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education.

If society is serious about preventing severe mental and behavioral health problems, it must take a critical look at the current state of mental health supports in the nation’s schools. Doing so will bring the value of screening tools into sharper focus.

School mental health stretched thin

First, let’s consider the service provider side of the equation. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of 1 school psychologist for every 500-700 students. However, the reality is that states on average have ratios of nearly twice that amount. Simply put, schools rarely have the staff necessary for comprehensive mental health services.

Second, only a small number of students who need mental health services will receive intervention in a timely manner. Due to the amount of time that teachers spend with students, teachers are the critical link to identify which students need help and to refer students to school psychologists, counselors and social workers. The question is: Do teachers know what to look for?

Silent issues overlooked

Consider a typical elementary classroom with 30 students. Approximately 6 students, on average, will have a critical mental and behavioral health problem such as anxiety or aggression, yet less than half will receive timely intervention. Who are those students? Typically those that exhibit more outward types of problems, such as aggression, problems paying attention and disruptive behavior.

Students with harder-to-see issues, such as withdrawal, anxiety and social isolation often get overlooked and rarely receive essential services. Teachers often lack the training or tools necessary to know which students may need help, beyond those that are disruptive to instruction.

These screenings are not part of the process for comprehensive special education evaluations, so the concerns about schools having to offer special education services as a result of the screening do not come into play.

While screening tools can help identify troubled students sooner, it is important not to oversell the usefulness of these tools. To be clear, there are no research-validated tools that can reliably identify which students may commit violent acts.

Toward universal screening

Currently, less than 15 percent of schools engage in some form of behavioral or mental health screening. However, more schools are adopting universal screening.

The ConversationAs the developer of a screening tool, I have seen rapid adoption of the tool over the last four years from two elementary schools in rural North Carolina to hundreds of schools across 28 states. As schools consider how best to meet the behavioral and mental health needs of their students, screening can provide crucial information to guide the way.

Nathaniel von der Embse, Assistant Professor of School Psychology, University of South Florida

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Caribbean residents see climate change as a severe threat but most in US don’t — here’s why


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People in the U.S. and the Caribbean share vulnerability to climate change-related disasters, but only in the Caribbean is the public truly worried. Why?

Elizabeth J. Zechmeister, Vanderbilt University and Claire Q. Evans, Vanderbilt University

During the 2017 Atlantic basin hurricane season, six major storms – all of which were Category 3 or higher – produced devastating human, material and financial devastation across the southern United States and the Caribbean.

Last year’s above-average storm activity was foreseeable. Hurricane intensity ticked up in 2016 and scientists have predicted this trend will hold as global temperatures continue to rise.

Though people in the U.S. and the Caribbean share this increasing vulnerability to hurricanes, they hold very different opinions about the severity of climate change. According to results from the latest Vanderbilt University AmericasBarometer survey, a strong majority of Caribbean residents perceive climate change as a “very serious” problem. In contrast, just 44 percent of the U.S. public does.

Why the difference of opinion? Our research identifies two key factors: politics and risk perception.

Climate change is a partisan issue in the US

The AmericasBarometer is a biennial survey conducted by Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Public Opinion Project. The latest round was conducted between 2016 and 2017 in 29 countries across the Americas.

The 10 Caribbean countries surveyed include Haiti, Dominica and Barbuda, all hit hard by hurricanes in recent years. The survey found that between 56 percent and 79 percent of respondents in the Caribbean believe that climate change is a very serious problem for their country.


Things look different in the United States, where the AmericasBarometer survey affirms prior research demonstrating that climate change is a partisan issue. More than three-quarters of individuals on the liberal side of the political spectrum reported that climate change is a very serious problem.

Less than 20 percent of those with conservative leanings expressed the same degree of concern.


This pattern holds even when we control for age, education, income, gender and perceptions of disaster risk.

In the Caribbean, political leanings are far less consequential to people’s views of climate change. The AmericasBarometer survey asked respondents in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica to place themselves on a scale that runs from the political left to the right. We found no significant differences in opinions about climate change from people with different political views.

One explanation for why the Caribbean public demonstrates more of a consensus on climate change, then, is simply that the issue is not politicized in that region. People of all ideological bents agree that, in the Caribbean, climate change poses a very serious problem.

Just how dangerous is climate change?

People’s perceptions of their vulnerability to climate change-related dangers may also explain diverging views on the issue.

The AmericasBarometer asked respondents in both the Caribbean and the United States to assess the odds that they or a family member would be killed or seriously harmed by a natural disaster in the next 25 years.

In both places, those who feel most vulnerable to disasters more often report that climate change is a “very serious” problem. This relationship holds even when accounting for age, education, wealth, urban residence and gender.

Overall, though, in the U.S. people feel less exposed to hurricanes and other disasters than their Caribbean counterparts. In fact, most members of the U.S. public believe that personal harm from a future disaster is either “not likely at all” or “unlikely.”

Most people in the Caribbean, on the other hand, say it is “somewhat likely” or “very likely.”


These notable differences may be due to geography. Because the Caribbean region is comprised of islands, a higher proportion of communities there are coastal. This, in turn, can increase the impact that storms have on residents.

Climate change and hurricanes

Some scientific consensus exists that climate change can be blamed , at least in part, for the hundreds of casualties and more than US$400 billion in damage that storms brought to the U.S. and the Caribbean in 2017.

Scientific models indicate that the Earth’s warming climate is likely to shape future storm activity in the Atlantic basin. Scientists are not sure, however, exactly how this will manifest itself in future hurricane seasons. Some researchers suggest that warmer temperatures increase storm probability. Others restrict the effects to storm intensity.

The ConversationThe 2018 hurricane season is just a few months away. Our research reveals that with politics removed and risk perceptions elevated, people in the Caribbean are bracing for whatever comes quite differently than their U.S. counterparts.

Elizabeth J. Zechmeister, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and Director of LAPOP, Vanderbilt University and Claire Q. Evans, Doctoral Student, Political Science, Vanderbilt University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

America’s mass incarceration problem in 5 charts – or, why Sessions shouldn’t bring back mandatory minimums

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pushing for stricter sentencing in criminal cases.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Tanya Golash-Boza, University of California, Merced

Today, the United States is a world leader in incarceration, but this has not always been the case.

For most of the 20th century, the U.S. incarcerated about 100 people per 100,000 residents – below the current world average. However, starting in 1972, our incarceration rate began to increase steadily. By 2008, we reached a peak rate of 760 incarcerated persons per 100,000 residents.

The increase in incarceration cannot be explained by a rise in crime, as crime rates fluctuate independently of incarceration rates. Incarceration rates soared because laws changed, making a wider variety of crimes punishable by incarceration and lengthening sentences.

This sharp increase was driven in part by the implementation of mandatory minimums for drug offenses, starting in the 1980s. These laws demand strict penalties for all offenders in federal courts, no matter the extenuating circumstances.

The Obama administration took some measures to roll back these mandatory minimums. In 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo asking prosecutors to prosecute crimes with mandatory minimum sentences only for the worst offenders.

Earlier this month, however, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded that memo and issued his own, which requires prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious” offense. The punitive sentiment behind Sessions’ memo is a throwback to our failed experiment in mass incarceration in the 1980s and ‘90’s.

The rise of mass incarceration

According to political scientist Marie Gottschalk, mass incarceration took off in three waves.


First, in the mid-1970s, Congress began to lengthen sentences. This culminated in the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which established mandatory minimum sentences and eliminated federal parole.

Then, from 1985 to 1992, city, state and federal legislators began to lengthen drug sentences. This was the heyday of the war on drugs. It included the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which imposed even more mandatory minimum sentences. Most significantly, it set a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for offenses involving 100 grams of heroin, 500 grams of cocaine or 5 grams of crack cocaine.

Two years later, new legislation added a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine, with no evidence of intent to sell. Before then, one year of imprisonment had been the maximum federal penalty for possession of any amount of any drug.

The third wave hit in the early 1990s. This involved not only longer sentences, but “three strikes laws” that sentenced any person with two prior convictions to life without parole. “Truth in sentencing” policies also demanded that people serve their full sentences. This culminated in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which included a three strikes provision at the federal level.

Notably, these laws were passed during a time when crime rates had begun a precipitous decline. Today, more than half of U.S. states have a three strikes provision.

By the end of the 20th century, there were an unprecedented over two million inmates in the U.S. That’s more than 10 times the number of U.S. inmates at any time prior to the 1970s, and far more than most other countries.


The beginning of the end

Although the current incarceration rate is still high – about 1 in 37 adults – it is at its lowest since 1998.

Imprisonment has decreased over the past decade for two reasons. First, policymakers have started to realize that punitive laws do not work. Second, states are no longer able to continue financing this massive carceral system.

The Great Recession in 2007 gave elected leaders the political will to make cuts to the prison system. After three decades of prison building, many states found themselves with massive systems they were no longer able to finance, and began to release some prisoners to cut costs. This was the first time in 37 years that the number of prisoners went down. By 2011, one-fourth of states had closed or planned to close a prison.


In 2010, Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, repealing the five-year mandatory sentence for first-time offenders and for repeat offenders with less than 28 grams of cocaine.

This change reduced the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine down to 18-to-1. Activists had been demanding this reduction for decades, as the only difference between the two drugs is that crack is made by adding baking soda and heat to powder cocaine. Despite similar rates of crack usage in black and white communities, in 2010 – the last year of the 100-to-1 disparity – 85 percent of the 30,000 people sentenced for crack cocaine offenses were black.

In 2012, after years of steadily increasing prison admission rates, the number of new admissions to federal prisons began to decline. In 2015, just 46,912 people were admitted to federal prison – the lowest number in 15 years.

Crime falls, but public opinion stays the same

When mass incarceration first started ramping up in the 1970s, violent and property crime rates were high. However, even after crime rates began to decline, legislators continued passing punitive laws. In fact,
some of the most draconian laws were passed in the mid-1990s, long after crime rates had gone down.


Incarceration has had a limited impact on crime rates. First of all, it is just one of many factors that influence crime rates. Changes in the economy, fluctuations in the drug market and community-level responses often have more pronounced effects.

Second, there are diminishing returns from incarceration. Incarcerating repeat violent offenders takes them off the streets and thus reduces crime. But incarcerating nonviolent offenders has a minimal effect on crime rates.

But incarceration continued to rise even as crime fell, in part because of the public’s demand for a punitive response to crime. Although there is less crime today than there has been in the past, most people are not aware of this drop.

Thus, the fear of crime persists. This often translates into punitive public policies – regardless of declining crime rates and the inefficacy of these laws at preventing crime.


The ConversationSince the election of Richard Nixon, politicians on the left and right have learned that fear-mongering around crime is a surefire way to get elected. Today, when crime rates are at a historic low, politicians continue to stoke the flames of fear. These strategies may win elections, but the evidence shows they will not make our communities safer.

Tanya Golash-Boza, Professor, University of California, Merced

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why installing software updates makes us WannaCry

File 20170515 7005 1kosynyPeople don’t want to be interrupted to update their software.
irin73bal via Shutterstock.com

Elissa Redmiles, University of Maryland

The global ransomware attack called “WannaCry,” which began last week and continues today, could have been avoided, or at least made much less serious, if people (and companies) kept their computer software up to date. The attack’s spread demonstrates how hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 150 countries are running outdated software that leaves them vulnerable. The victims include Britain’s National Health Service, logistics giant FedEx, Spanish telecom powerhouse Telefonica and even the Russian Interior Ministry. The Conversation

The security flaw that allowed the attack to occur was fixed by Microsoft in March. But only people who keep their computers updated were protected. Details of the flaw were revealed to the public in April by the Shadow Brokers, a group of hackers who said they had stolen the information from the U.S. National Security Agency.

Attackers got into computers through that weakness and encrypted users’ data, demanding a ransom from anyone who wanted the data made usable again. But they didn’t win the race to exploit the flaw as much as people and computer companies collectively lost it. Our human tendencies and corporate policies worked against us. Research, including my own, tells us why, and offers some suggestions for how to fix it before the inevitable next attack.

Updating is a pain

All people had to do to stay safe from WannaCry was update their software. But people often don’t, for a number of specific reasons. In 2016, researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Indiana University asked 307 people to discuss their experiences of installing software updates.

Nearly half of them said they had been frustrated updating software; just 21 percent had a positive story to tell. Researchers highlighted the response of one participant who noted that Windows updates are available frequently – always the second Tuesday of every month, and occasionally in between those regular changes. The updates can take a long time. But even short updates can interrupt people’s regular workflow, so that study participant – and doubtless many others – avoids installing updates for “as long as possible.”

Some people may also be concerned that updating software could cause problems with programs they rely on regularly. This is a particular concern for companies with large numbers of computers running specialized software.

Adrienne Porter Felt Tweet

Is it necessary?

It can also be very hard to tell whether a new update is truly necessary. The software that fixed the WannaCry vulnerability came out in a regular second-Tuesday update, which may have made it seem more routine. Research tells us that people ignore repeated security warning messages. Consequently, these monthly updates may be especially easy to ignore.

The companies putting out the updates don’t always help much, either. Of the 18 updates Microsoft released on March 14, including the WannaCry fix, half were rated “critical,” and the rest were labeled “important.” That leaves users with little information they could use to prioritize their own updates. If, for example, it was clear that skipping a particular update would leave users vulnerable to a dangerous ransomware attack, people might agree to interrupt their work to protect themselves.

Even security experts struggle to prioritize. The day the fix was released, Microsoft watcher Chris Goettel suggested prioritizing four of the 18 updates – but not the one fixing WannaCry. Security company Qualys also failed to include that specific update in its list of the most important March updates.

Security pros, and everyone else


The most common recommendation is to update everything immediately. People just don’t do that, though. A 2015 survey by Google found that more than one-third of security professionals don’t keep their systems current. Only 64 percent of security experts update their software automatically or immediately upon being notified a new version is available. Even fewer – just 38 percent – of regular users do the same.

Another research project analyzed software-update records from 8.4 million computers and found that people with some expertise in computer science tend to update more quickly than nonexperts. But it’s still slow: From the time an update is released, it takes an average of 24 days before half of the computers belonging to software engineers are updated. Regular users took nearly twice as long, with 45 days passing before half of them had completed the same update.

Making updates easier

Experts might be quicker at updating because they understand better the potential vulnerabilities updates might fix. Therefore, they might be more willing to suffer the annoyances of interrupted work and multiple restarts.

Software companies are working on making updates more seamless and less disruptive. Google’s Chrome web browser, for example, installs updates silently and automatically – downloading new information in the background and making the changes when a user quits and then reopens the program. The goal is for the user not to know an update even happened.

That’s not the right choice for all kinds of updates, though. For example, the Windows update needed to protect against the WannaCry attack requires the computer to restart. Users won’t tolerate their computers shutting down and restarting with no warning.

Getting the message out

So computer companies must try to convince us – and we must convince ourselves – that updates are important. My own research focuses on doing just this, by producing and evaluating entertaining and informative videos about computer security.

An entertainment-education video about software updating produced by researchers at the University of Maryland.

In our first experiment evaluating the video, we conducted a month-long study to compare our video with an article of advice from security firm McAfee. The video was effective for more of our participants than the McAfee article was. Our video was also equally or more effective, overall, at improving people’s updating practices. Trying new approaches to teaching security behaviors such as our edutainment video, or even security comics, may be a first step toward helping us stay safer online.

Elissa Redmiles, Ph.D. Student in Computer Science, University of Maryland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How funding to house #MentallyIll, #Homeless is a financial gain, not drain

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A director of a supportive housing center in Bronx, New York, talks with a resident and case worker in December 2015.
Bebeto Matthews/AP

Carol Caton, Columbia University Medical Center

As Congress considers the federal budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 to reduce funding for services to poor and homeless Americans, programs with proven cost-effectiveness should not be on the chopping block. One such program is supportive housing for homeless people with severe mental illness. The Conversation

Supportive housing, funded and coordinated by several different federal agencies and nonprofits, provides homeless people who have severe mental illness with housing coupled with treatment and support services. There is no increase in net public cost compared to street and shelter living.

While it may appear that paying for supportive housing is a drain on the federal budget, research has shown that ending homelessness for the severely mentally ill saves taxpayers money.

Because funding comes from several different agencies, it is hard to know specifically from the president’s budget plan how deep the cuts to supportive housing could be. Yet we do know that the president has proposed cuts in funding to Housing and Urban Development by 13 percent and to Health and Human Services by 19 percent. Both these agencies provide significant funding for supportive housing.

I research mental illness and homelessness. Cutting funds to house the homeless would cost us more money than it would save.

Supportive housing and the homeless mentally ill

Since the 1980s, homelessness has plagued cities and towns across the country. Today, more than a half-million people in the U.S. are homeless. One in every three homeless people suffers from a mental illness, which is often compounded by multiple health problems and substance abuse.

The homeless mentally ill are likely to remain undomiciled and without treatment for long periods of time. This brings a high social and economic cost to society. Disabled by mental illness and unable to work, these individuals have little hope of exiting homelessness without public assistance.

From www.shutterstock.com

Beset with extreme poverty and disability, their inability to work renders them heavily dependent on the largesse of government agencies for disability income, housing support and health care.

The challenges facing homeless people in general are daunting. Security, privacy and creature comforts are in short supply. The daily burden of being homeless involves finding ways to assuage exhaustion and hunger, and to sidestep the violence and victimization that regularly occurs in life on the streets. An estimated 14 to 21 percent of homeless people are victims of crimes, compared to about 2 percent of the general population.

Supportive housing, started in the early 1980s, has shown to make a big difference. Unlike the temporary respite provided by crisis shelters, it provides access to permanent housing, mental health treatment and support from mental health professionals to guide the adjustment from homelessness to stable residence in the community.

Supportive housing tenants must have a behavioral health condition that qualifies them for a federal disability income. Residents pay one-third of the cost of rent and utilities with their disability income (about US$733 per month). The balance is covered by a housing subsidy provided through private or governmental sources. In some cases, eligibility for a housing subsidy is based on duration of street and shelter living.

The numbers tell the story

In concert with the federal plan to “End Chronic Homelessness in Ten Years,” supportive housing has helped to reduce chronic homelessness by 35 percent between 2007 and 2016.

At an annual cost ranging from $12,000 to nearly $20,000 per unit, permanent supportive housing is expensive, but it is substantially less than the annual cost of a stay in a homeless shelter, jail or prison, or psychiatric hospital.

Some of the funding comes from the federal government, including from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care and from Section 8 housing subsidies. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs also provide funding.

States including New York, California, Washington and Connecticut have helped to fund housing for people with mental illness, as have some city and county governments.

Other sources of funding include low-income housing tax credits, private foundations and charitable donations to nonprofit housing providers. The Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion program provides Medicaid reimbursement for services provided to individuals in supportive housing.

And the winner is…everyone

Controlled trials conducted in the United States and Canada have found the majority of people who have had access to supportive housing remain housed for a year or more, showing greater housing stability than that among comparison subjects. In addition, individuals in supportive housing not only stayed longer but also had a reduction in subsequent homelessness and decreased use of emergency departments and hospitals.

Cost offset studies show that supportive housing leads to less use of costly public services.

A landmark analysis of administrative data from multiple public service systems examined the impact of supportive housing placement on 4,679 individuals and their use of the public shelter system, public and private hospitals, and correctional facilities. The study found that persons placed in supportive housing experienced significant reductions in use of homeless shelters, hospitals and time incarcerated. In fact, public service cost reductions following housing placement nearly offset the cost of the housing itself.

Significantly, supportive housing is nearly half the average cost per year of $35,578 for a chronically homeless person. Part of the reason is that stable housing resulted in a shift in service use from expensive crisis services to less costly community-based care.

Strong and compelling evidence indicates that supportive housing is a “win-win” for both the homeless mentally ill and the holders of the public purse. It offers people with mental illness safe and adequate housing and greater access to treatment, essential elements in their recovery. And it can lead to greater cost-efficient use of public services.

Currently there are not nearly enough supportive housing units to house the thousands of individuals with severe mental illness who are currently unstably housed or are at risk of falling into homelessness.

It would not make economic sense to cut funding for a cost-effective intervention that provides a solution to homelessness. Rather, what we need now is the public will to bring supportive housing to scale so that the most fragile among us might achieve stable residence in the community. They, too, deserve the opportunity for personal fulfillment and involvement in mainstream society.

Carol Caton, Professor of Sociomedical Sciences (Psychiatry and Public Health), Columbia University Medical Center

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

DNC lawsuit: “you’re morons to believe us” — PART 1 of 3

The Florida Squeeze

In the matter of the DNC fraud lawsuit, the absolute worst outcome for the Democratic Party would be to win their argument for dismissal. And yet, if it isn’t dismissed Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC will still be in a world of hurt.

PHOTO BY: Brook Hines

Arguments for dismissal of the DNC fraud lawsuit were delivered Tuesday, April 25 in the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, before the Hon. William J. Zloch. After reading the complaint and the transcript for dismissal, it’s clear to me that the DNC has been caught in a catch-22.  From a legal standpoint, the only hope the DNC has is to win dismissal. If they lose the argument for dismissal, the whole matter will go to trial. This means Democratic Party elites will be called to take the stand (and respond to discovery) under penalty of perjury. Donna Brazile and Debbie Wasserman Schultz will…

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