Monday, 11 May 2009

Know your heroes - part of a continuing series

Philip Mangano - the system got us into this, the system can get us out:

PHILIP MANGANO is credited with beginning to do what was unthinkable only years ago: eradicating homelessness in the United States. The silver-coiffed, dark-suited "Homelessness Czar" was appointed by the former president in 2002, and continues in the Obama Administration.

One of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2007, Mangano has persuaded 350 US jurisdictions to adopt 10-year plans to end homelessness, and spread his ideas to Canada and Australia.

Mangano fashions himself as an abolitionist, intentionally invoking the anti-slavery rhetoric.

The epiphany that convinced the former band manager to dedicate his life to working for the "poorest poor" came when he was watching a Franco Zeffirelli film about St Francis of Assisi. He calls homelessness a "moral, spiritual and humanitarian disgrace", a "human tragedy".

However well-meaning, he condemns attempts to simply help people survive on the streets - or to make them "prove" their fitness for housing through mental health and other programmes - as entrenching the problem.

His first targets were the hardest cases: the 10 per cent of homeless who were long term and mentally ill. Between 2005 and 2007, this group fell by 30 per cent from 176,000 on any given night to 124,000. The total number of people living on the street or in shelters fell 12 per cent to 671,888.

Why? This is why.

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