Is Affordable Housing Solution to Homelessness? 

The Housing Iowa Conference was held this week at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Cedar Rapids. The agenda included panels discussing possible solutions to the housing problem and speakers who had their own theories about why homelessness is growing in our community. 

The answer isn't a simple one, but it seems that more social programs are needed to help individuals in our community who facing more challenges every day.  Addiction, health, and mental issues are just the start. If individuals can overcome these issues, those facing homelessness need to hold a steady job, pay their bills (including skyrocketing rent!), and everything else that comes with being a responsible member of society. Life can be challenging even without the obstacles facing our world today.

Crissy Canganelli, the Executive Director of Shelter House in Iowa City, recently told KCRG that addictions and mental health issues are not the main cause of homelessness, but is due to a lack of affordable housing. Although I agree whole-heartedly with Ms. Canganelli, I believe that all of the above circumstances can contribute to homelessness. Mental health issues can lead to addiction, which can lead to job loss, which can lead to not having enough money to pay rent and bills. 

Our community leaders need to look at what is contributing to homelessness and start tackling it there, at the root of the problem. We need more mental health advocates, more addiction recovery programs, more employment programs, and yes, much more affordable housing. 

Too many luxury condos and apartments are being built with community funding. It's time to make "affordable" housing actually affordable. Why not look into a "Tiny Home" community that works on a sliding scale? How about repurposing old buildings that have sat empty for years? All people really want is a few rooms with a bathroom and a space to call their own. Do city leaders really want to solve the problem? If so, why isn't more being done to solve the issue? 

I know many other citizens agree. The money spent to beautify our city and build round-abouts would be better spent on important social programs that help strengthen the morale of our community. Not only would it help our neighbors overcome challenges and obstacles, but I believe it would all make us better people, too.  - Cynthia Petersen