The Ripple of How Public Policy Has Shaped Homelessness Over the Last 50 Years

Homelessness, a widespread issue transcending geography and economics, has persisted in the United States for decades. Public policy changes in the past half-century have significantly influenced homelessness trends. Government decisions, funding allocations, and social welfare programs have either exacerbated or alleviated homelessness, with Shelters of Saratoga dedicating 30 years to address these issues.

Deinstitutionalization Movement

In the 1960s and ’70s, the deinstitutionalization movement aimed to provide community-based mental health care, but insufficient funding resulted in a surge in homelessness, especially among individuals with mental illnesses.

Housing Policy and Affordability

Gentrification in Saratoga Springs, NY, has led to rising property values and housing costs, making it challenging for lower-income residents to find affordable housing. This has raised concerns about displacement and community cohesion.

Criminalization of Homelessness

Recent policies in some areas criminalize behaviors associated with homelessness, perpetuating marginalization without addressing root causes, despite claims of enhancing public safety and hygiene.

Supportive Services and Community Programs

Federal aid programs like TANF and SSI, when adequately funded, act as safety nets for vulnerable populations. Shelters of Saratoga’s supportive housing program, in partnership with New York State, prioritizes specialized needs to promote housing and financial stability.


The interplay between public policy and homelessness over 50 years underscores the need for a comprehensive approach. Mental health care, affordable housing, criminalization, and social welfare programs all influence homelessness. Evidence-based strategies that balance short-term relief and long-term solutions are crucial.

Sustainable housing necessitates a community-driven approach. Shelters of Saratoga has spent over 30 years understanding the community’s needs, offering affordable, supportive housing that empowers individuals with crucial support services, including counseling, job training, and life skills development. This comprehensive program not only provides shelter but also helps individuals rebuild their lives.