Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The gaps that matter

I heard this story on NPR this morning about Rapid Rehousing programs.  They seem like a good part of solution, but definitely not enough.  The story says as much.

The idea behind rapid rehousing is pretty simple.  They structure housing assistance with the idea to get you standing on your own as soon as possible.  This is important for the low-income recipient because it provides incentives to succeed during the program and freedom of movement after.  Along with housing during the program of course. 

The problem is that they are not sustainable because they don’t solve the underlying structural problems that got the person into that situation in the first place.  The income gap, the wealth gap, the education gap, and the stability gap.  It is this last one I want to mention today.

I have mentioned the marshmallow test many times and I am sure you are all familiar with it (if not, it is here or a great YouTube version).  I have also posted about the follow-up to that which investigated household stability and how that is a strong predictor of the self-control that kids of all ages need to stop themselves from eating the initial marshmallow.  It makes sense too – if you grow up in a household where expectations and promises often go unfulfilled, you are smart to take the marshmallow in hand rather than to risk waiting for a second marshmallow that may never come.

I was particularly struck by this quote, which really resonated with me personally.

“As many families do, she went to live with a parent, but that didn't work out. So she moved into a homeless shelter for a year . . .”

I can’t imagine any circumstances that I could ever find myself in where my parents, brothers, even aunts, uncles and cousins, would let something come between us that forces me to pick a homeless shelter over staying with them.   

I realize that I am blessed with a tight and loving family despite our many dysfunctions.  It is not just my socio-economic and demographic status.  But still.