APA Supports National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day

On November 29, 2010, APA’s Public Interest Government Relations Office sent the below letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of H. Con. Res. 325, recognizing National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day on December 21, 2010. This important resolution would:

  • promote a comprehensive national response to address the causal factors and consequences of extreme poverty; 

  • acknowledge those who are currently living on the streets and our nation’s failure to end homelessness; and 

  • salute the dedicated professionals and organizations who provide assistance to people in need.

APA’s communication to the House highlighted the activities of psychologists around homelessness issues, including the recent APA Presidential Task Force on Psychology’s Contribution to End Homelessness.

Letter of Support for National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day

November 29, 2010

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the 155,000 members and affiliates of the American Psychological Association (APA), we urge you to pass H.Con. Res 325, recognizing National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day on December 21, 2010.  An estimated 2 million people experience homelessness in the U.S. each year, and the mortality rate among those without homes is four times that of the general population. H.Con.Res 325 reaffirms the nation’s commitment to ending homelessness by promoting a comprehensive national response that addresses the housing, health, and economic causal factors and consequences of extreme poverty.

APA is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U.S. and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. Comprising researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting health, education, and human welfare. Psychologists play a pivotal role in assessing the effectiveness of and making recommendations to prevent and end homelessness, and examine current and proposed policies regarding this important issue.

Homelessness exists when people lack safe, stable, and appropriate places to live and occurs when there is a convergence of economic and interpersonal factors in the lives of people who are often marginalized in society. Homelessness not only impacts adults but also affects families and vulnerable populations, including children and youth. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that over 70 percent of people experiencing homelessness have at least one unmet health need and almost half report two or more. 

In 2009, APA commissioned the Presidential Task Force on Psychology’s Contribution to End Homelessness (TFPCEH) to identify the psychosocial factors and conditions associated with homelessness, and to define the role of psychologists in addressing this critical problem. The TFPCEH identified the lack of affordable housing, poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, and substance abuse, among the problems that may lead to homelessness. The remediation of homelessness involves addressing the multiple risk factors that can contribute to homelessness as well as advocating for structural changes, including more affordable housing, income supports, and mental health and substance use prevention services.

Over the last two year, the U.S. Congress and the White House have made strides to prioritize this serious issue and create policies aimed at preventing and eliminating homelessness. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) issued its first strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness in March 2010. In May 2009, President Obama signed the Homeless Emergency and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009. The administration has also set an important goal of eliminating homelessness among veterans in 5 years.

We urge you to pass H.Con. Res 325, reaffirming Congress’ commitment to prevent and eliminate homelessness. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Krysta Jones in the APA Public Interest Government Relations Office at (202) 336-5931.

Sincerely,

Gwendolyn Puryear Keita, PhD
Executive Director
Public Interest Directorate