Redefining Home for the Unhoused, Unsheltered, and Underserved with Marybeth Shinn & Rusty Smith

Original Air Date Wednesday, January 12, 2022 

What do you think about when you pass a homeless encampment or homeless shelter?

Do you assume most of the people living there have substance abuse or mental health issues? It is a common myth. The truth is the age at which people are most likely to find themselves in a homeless shelter in the US is in infancy. To shine a light on important initiatives and programs currently available to reduce homelessness in the US and how we all can make a positive impact, Positive Psychology Podcast Host, Lisa Cypers Kamen speaks with two educators about solutions proven to work to alleviate homelessness. Coauthor of In the Midst of Plenty: Homelessness and What to Do About It, Marybeth Shinn dispels common myths about homelessness and the underserved, and shares how we all can be part of the solution for the unhoused and underserved. Associate Director of Rural Studio at Auburn University, Rusty Smith, describes how reducing homelessness strengthens communities, especially in persistently impoverished communities and the innovative approaches of Rural Studio and Front Porch Initiative.

Marybeth Shinn — Unhoused, Unsheltered and Underserved:

  • The history of homelessness in the United States and why people become unhoused. [2:24]
  • The factors that keep us from ending homelessness and the resources that help alleviate or relieve homelessness. [5:21]
  • The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the main way housing for poor people is subsidized in the US but has extensive wait times. [8:42]
  • In her book, In the Midst of Plenty, Marybeth offers tangible solutions to ending homelessness. [11:52]
  • Common myths about homelessness in the US. [13:30]
  • Marybeth shares a real-life example of a formerly homeless family who benefited from a housing voucher. [16:27]
  • Lobbying politicians is a key factor to obtain the resources to eliminate homelessness. [19:24]
  • If you want to be part of the solution, these providers are focused on getting people back into housing. [24:32]

Woman with short hair, glasses and a blue shirt with flowersand a necklace, guest of one of the episodes of Harvesting Happiness Talk radio about the unhoused, unsheltered and underserved with Marybeth Shinn & Rusty SmithMarybeth Shinn, Ph.D., is a Cornelius Vanderbilt professor at Vanderbilt University. She co-led the Family Options Study of different approaches to ending family homelessness, evaluated the initial study of the Pathways Housing First experiment, and developed a model used by New York City to target its homelessness prevention services.

Book: In the Midst of Plenty: Homelessness and What to Do About It


Marybeth Shinn

Rusty Smith — Redefining Home:

  • Rusty Smith shares details about Auburn University’s Rural Studio program and the three premises of the program. [27:16]
  • The challenges of adequately housing and decently feeding our communities. [32:30]
  • The Front Porch Initiative aims to share designs, products, and learnings with other housing providers outside of Alabama. [33:51]
  • Statistics of the unhoused, underserved and the persistently impoverished areas in the US. [39:30]
  • Defining affordability, calculating the extraordinary hidden cost of inaction, and the four fundamental challenges for homeowners in impoverished areas. [42:04]
  • Measuring the impact and success of the Rural Studio program and the Front Porch Initiative. [48:28]

Man with orange shirt and wall of bricks as background, guest of one of the episodes of Harvesting Happiness Talk radio about the unhoused, unsheltered and underserved with Marybeth Shinn & Rusty SmithRusty Smith is the Associate Director of Rural Studio, Auburn University’s internationally recognized design-build program located in West Alabama. Smith spearheads the Front Porch Initiative, managing a multi-faceted effort to mitigate the rural housing crisis through both affordable, quality home construction and national coalition-building for home procurement.

Rural Studio
@RuralStudio on Twitter
Rural Studio on Facebook
@ruralstudio on Instagram


This podcast episode about the unhoused, unsheltered and underserved is sponsored by:

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“To live a life of dignity, basic needs and services must be met.” @LisaKamen on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“When everybody is doing well, we do well. When part of the population is marginalized it creates a host of other problems.” @LisaKamen on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“We have a tremendous population that doesn't have their basic needs of being adequately housed and decently fed met.” @LisaKamen on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Many of us have not looked at home in the context of what Front Porch and Rural Studio are doing to serve the community holistically.” @LisaKamen on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Homelessness is basically a problem of housing affordability. In the 1970s we had very little homelessness.” — Marybeth Shinn on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“If we simply offered families housing vouchers that kept their rental expenses to 30% of their income, we not only ended homelessness but we had radiating benefits for other aspects of family life.” — Marybeth Shinn on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the main way we are subsidizing housing for poor people.” — Marybeth Shinn on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“The age at which you are most likely to find yourself in a homeless shelter in the US is in infancy.” — Marybeth Shinn on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“When it comes to substance abuse, many homeless people didn’t hit the bottle before they hit the street.” — Marybeth Shinn on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Giving people a platform to get their lives together is so important.” — Marybeth Shinn on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Racial minorities are at a greater risk of homelessness in part because their families have less wealth because of structural discrimination.” — Marybeth Shinn on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“We need to be able to create housing where people are, to be able to house all of our citizens.” — Marybeth Shinn on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“The Rural Studio is like a study abroad program except the students don't go overseas.” @RuralStudio on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“We believe that everyone, no matter their circumstance deserves a safe, durable, healthy, and dignified place to call home.” @RuralStudio on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“When you begin to think about resiliency in a community, having the workforce there to respond in moments of crisis is key.” @RuralStudio on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Persistently impoverished areas in the US are all rural and historic landscapes of extraction.” @RuralStudio on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Solving housing access and affordability honestly is not a brick and mortar problem. It’s a systems-based challenge.” @RuralStudio on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“The investment our homeowners have as being clients for our students is invaluable and the clients get a home.” @RuralStudio on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet



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