In order for us to understand what public policy might actually help improve cities with a large homeless population, then we need to understand what assumptions public policy makers might have about the homeless which work against public interest.
Many public policy makers assume that all of the homeless want or need an apartment, which is the current fad among homeless policy makers. Wet apartments* is a solution for some, but it seems to not actually reduce homelessness, at least in Multnomah County, and it creates a mini-slum around the housing. To speak to most homeless as to what they want, their solutions are twofold: to have a place where they can sleep without being harassed, and to have a secure place where they can leave their belongings.
Although these solutions are temporary, they are far less complicated and far less expensive than what public policy makers want to give. This is partly because the policy makers have more than one goal—helping the homeless isn’t the only issue—but it is also because they assume that the homeless want or need much more than they do.
*Housing for the addicted without needing them to be clean or sober.