Homelessness and inadequate housing for many who are not technically homeless has been a problem of virtually all societies for hundreds of years, including here in the United States. Homelessness is often linked to psychiatric problems afflicting those forced by circumstances to live on the streets, but it is also a problem among individuals and families simply lacking the financial means of attaining adequate shelter. Inadequate shelter primarily involves substandard housing – in effect, slums without proper heating, plumbing, electricity, and maintenance of the walls and surroundings – obviously directly linked to broader socioeconomic problems afflicting most major cities and towns. The idea behind the concept of a “continuum of housing” and of a “continuum of care” is to identify the optimal housing situation for individual families at a given point in time with the goal of graduating those families up the housing ladder as their socioeconomic conditions gradually improves.
As the moniker indicates, the continuum of housing involves a graduated ascent up the housing spectrum from temporary, government-subsidized community housing, to the ultimate goal of permanent, privately-owned housing. In between those ends of the spectrum are low-income rental properties with partial subsidization provided by the city, state or federal government. The idea is to gradually wean families off of subsidized housing and their socioeconomic status improves into more independent and privately-owned housing.
The linkage between the continuum of housing and the issue of long-term care lies in the mental well-being of those transiting this continuum. As heads of household overcome alcohol or drug addictions, attain beneficial psychiatric treatment, develop the skills necessary for independent living, or attain meaningful employment, their mental well-being improves and they tend to take increased pride in the concept of ownership. For those who do not suffer from debilitating addictions or psychiatric conditions, but for whom physical disability is the cause of homelessness or submission to assisted-living facilities, the goal is similarly to advance the individual through the graduated process from assisted-living to independent living, to extent possible. For those for whom homelessness is a product of unemployment, then moving individuals and families into government-subsidized temporary housing while assisting heads of households to find full-time employment is the short-term goal, with ascent up the ladder towards home-ownership again the ultimate goal. The continuum of housing is about helping families attain a level of economic stability and an improved sense of permanency with respect to adequate shelter that is highly beneficial to the mental and physical well-being of all involved.