Seven Cities Leading Effort To Help Persons Living On The Streets
Seven cities across the country are working toward ending long-term or chronic homelessness and providing the rest of the nation with new approaches to better house and serve their most vulnerable citizens.
That’s the conclusion of a report released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
HUD’s study, Strategies for Reducing Chronic Street Homelessness, focused on homeless assistance programs in Birmingham, Alabama; Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; San Diego; and, Seattle. In each city, HUD found local leaders and homeless assistance providers who are fundamentally changing their traditional approaches toward serving those living on their streets.
Prepared by the research firms, Walter R. McDonald & Associates of Sacramento, California, and the Urban Institute of Washington, DC, the report found most chronically homeless individuals never graduate beyond the emergency shelter environment and that conventional strategies generally do not fully succeed in moving every type of homeless person out of homelessness.
By contrast, the programs in these seven cities have either developed entirely new strategies or successfully modified existing methods for meeting the complex needs of persons whose skills are often oriented toward survival on the streets, not living in housing.
Many of the cities are developing mechanisms for improving services to their homeless population by creating database technology and information sharing that allows staff members of one agency to know what services a client might be receiving from another agency. In addition, there is a more concerted effort to coordinate among multiple providers to more effectively deliver both housing and services to those who need it most.
The study finds five elements to be present in the communities that have made the most progress toward reaching the goal of ending chronic homelessness. They include:
* Shifting the goals and approaches of the homeless assistance network toward a new paradigm;
* Establishing a clear goal of reducing chronic street homelessness;
* Committing to a community-wide level of collaboration;
* Having leadership and an effective organizational structure; and,
* Committing significant resources from mainstream housing and social service programs that go well beyond homeless-specific funding sources.
How to pay for these innovative approaches is a challenge but HUD’s report points to a common theme among the seven cities studied: “The experience of these seven communities indicates very strongly that reducing chronic street homelessness requires significant investment of mainstream public agencies and local dollars. The goal cannot be met if the homeless assistance network providers are the only players, and federal funding streams the only resource.”
HUD is awarding $1.27 billion to thousands of local homeless assistance projects around the country. This money helps support emergency shelter, transitional housing, vital services and a permanent home for homeless individuals and families.
HUD is the nation’s housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation’s fair housing laws.