Informing Homeless Policy
Authored by: Lisa Dugan
Photography by: Candace diCarlo
Tom Byrne firmly believes that the first step to solving a problem is to understand it. To that end, the Ph.D. candidate has been working with SP2 professor Dennis Culhane researching various facets of homelessness. Recently they, along with several others, collaborated on a multi-site prevalence study for the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans comparing rates of homelessness among veterans and civilians. The study, which found a higher prevalence of homelessness among vets, will help improve the targeting of resources to prevent and eliminate homelessness among this vulnerable population.
Byrne and Culhane also co-authored a white paper titled “Reducing Family Homelessness in Massachusetts.” The paper, commissioned by Paul and Phyllis Fireman Foundation, looked at the ways the Emergency Assistance (EA) program in Massachusetts could be redesigned to increase its effectiveness in preventing homelessness without additional funding. According to Byrne, Massachusetts is the only state that is obligated to provide shelter services to homeless families, a mandate that costs $135 million annually, but does little to address the problem of family homelessness. “Our paper outlines the problems with the onesize- fits-all approach and advocates for more flexible forms of assistance including prevention programs, outreach and relocation assistance,” he explains. In his FY12 budget, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick proposed significant changes in the nature and delivery of services for homeless and at-risk families.