It is that time of the year, when pundits start writing their top ten lists as if every American really wants to read the top most influential, best-looking, most powerful people list. Does it really have an impact on our personal lives?
With homelessness still rampant across our country, however, a top ten list of how this country is working its way toward ending homelessness certainly affects most Americans.
So here is the Top Ten Steps this country has made in 2012 toward ending homelessness:
10. Social Impact Bonds (SIB) are changing the business of ending homelessness. It used to be that charities would beg for money through direct mail pieces. With SIBs, private investors invest resources into social programs. And if the programs succeed, the investors get their money back with interest. It is a new way of funding homeless programs, and a new way of defining "return on investment".
9. Does changing the definition of homelessness really mean anything? This year, the federal government changed the meaning of "homelessness", resulting in more homeless Americans having access to federal resources -- like families temporarily living in motels or on friend's couches.
8. Preventing people from becoming homeless is cheaper than waiting until they end up on the streets and getting them back into an apartment. Although the government's HPRP (Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing) program ended in 2012, it prevented one million Americans from becoming homeless.
7. Obamacare means Homelesscare. The Supreme Court upheld most of President Obama's Affordable Care Act, which means homeless Americans will have access to Medicaid (healthcare programs) in 2014.
6. Homeless youth became a national priority when the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness created a strategic plan just for this group.
5. Veteran homelessness numbers are trending down. With the U.S. government seeking to end veteran homelessness by 2015, the reduction in numbers at least, are going in the right direction whether the goal is met by that time or not.
4. America's "ground zero" of homelessness, also known as Los Angeles, is getting its act together. Most experts have acknowledged that America's homelessness cannot seriously be addressed without housing L.A.'s 50,000 homeless Angelenos. The region's United Way and Chamber of Commerce joined forces to create "Home For Good", a heroic effort to realign the area's resources. And it's working.
3. The most expensive Presidential election in history just ended ($2 billion!). Some experts link the reduction in charity giving to election cycles, because people would rather give to their favorite candidate than charity. The good news is that the election is over.
2. Prioritizing America's most vulnerable on the streets has become the standard. A few years ago, "vulnerable" was never in a homeless agency leader's lingo. This year, the 100K Homes Campaign that has reached almost 25% of its goal of housing 100,000 of the most vulnerable homeless in America, radically changed the prioritization of who should be housed first. Of course, it should be the most vulnerable.
1. Is Compassion back? When a NYPD cop was photographed buying shoes for a shoe-less, lone man who was homeless on the sidewalk, his act of compassion went viral. The NYPD Facebook page, alone, received 320,000 "likes," 77,000 "shares" and 20,000 comments. After three decades of acute homelessness in America, are we ready as a country to turn compassion into ending homelessness for good?
If 2012 are small steps, then let's hope that 2013 becomes one giant leap toward ending homelessness.