Looking for answers in all the wrong places

The English should learn far more from how Japan responds to homelessness than from how America does.

Look at any list of ‘interventions’ that are designed to end homelessness and you will be immediately confronted by high quality studies from America and virtually no studies from Japan. That is not because America has solved the problem of homelessness while Japan is still figuring it out. Far from it. It’s because America has such a problem with homelessness that there are so many initiatives and studies looking at individual projects while Japan has for years had a highly effective system.

In 2020, 13,212 were counted as unsheltered in Texas, a state with a population of 29 million people.

In 2019, there were 4,266 people counted as sleeping rough in England, a country with a population of 56 million people.

Those numbers are probably completely incorrect, given how hard it is to count how many people are sleeping on the streets. However, it should be obvious that there are far fewer people living in Texas than living in England and that there are far more people sleeping without shelter in Texas than England.

Texas is not nearly the worst performing state. There were 113,660 people counted as ‘unsheltered’ in California, a horrifically large number. But even Texas, a state that is celebrated by many for its relatively low rents and the number of new homes built each year, has far more people experiencing homelessness than England.

Compare both countries with the situation in Japan where there were 3,992 people counted as homeless with a population of 126 million population.

Japan has done a far better job than either England or America at reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness. While it is useful to learn from individual programmes in America, it is far more useful to learn from general approach taken in Japan.

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