As the country faces recession, it's worth remembering that homelessness came to national attention during the boom years of the 1980s. Harder economic times will only make the problem worse. And now we can add to this fact the dispiriting finding, in a report released yesterday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, that compassion for the homeless is being supplanted in America by hostility and frustration.
So there is ample reason to welcome Maryland-based Enterprise Foundation's announcement of a new investment fund allowing corporations to earn income tax credits by investing in housing for the homeless and other low-income persons with special needs. The new fund provides a vehicle for corporations to make use of tax credits created by Congress in 1986 to promote long-term private investments in low-income housing. With an investment of $10 million, Fannie Mae -- the Federal National Mortgage Association -- is the fund's first participant.
For people on the margins of society, a steady place to live is a big step toward a self-sufficient life. But that one step is not always enough. What sets this effort apart is another new initiative announced this week, Enterprise Housing Plus. This program will provide the social services, such as child care or job counseling, that many people need in order to stabilize their lives and move into the mainstream of society. For many people, these support services could make the difference between success and landing back on the streets.
Affordable housing is hard enough for many middle-class families to find. The problems grow even worse further down the economic ladder. No program can solve this problem alone. But each successful effort can make a big difference in many people's lives.