Tag Archive for Affordable housing

New London, CT’s “Rapid Re-housing” Program Shortens Shelter Stays and Saves Money

Map of Connecticut highlighting New London County

Map of Connecticut highlighting New London County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On July 1, 2013, New London County, Connecticut’s homeless picture should change substantially as regional homeless services shift to the goal of “Rapid Re-housing.” This strategy will actually put the county ahead of new HUD goals that call for limiting the stay in a homeless shelter to no more than 30 days and reducing the number of people entering the shelter for the first time.

The New London Homeless Hospitality Center declares that its Help Center will aid homeless people working on housing plans, find jobs and assist them in applying for Social Security and other benefits. The Norwich Community Care Team, which has closed its annual winter overnight shelter, just received City Council permission to convert its annual $30,000 federal community development block grant from shelter operation to rapid re-housing.

Many county homeless have some income but cannot afford pricey local rents and security deposits. The Hospitality Center is seeking funding to provide help ranging from bus fare to job interviews or a Social Security hearing to “topping off” someone’s monthly rent. Also, the area has a lot of derelict houses that could be fixed up for needed low-income housing, thereby also providing new jobs.

Homeless advocates and service providers agree that finding housing, whether it be supportive housing, shared apartments, transitional housing or even substance abuse treatment centers, is better than a lingering shelter stay.

Lee Ann Gomes, Norwich Human Services social work supervisor and a member of the Norwich Community Care Team said, rapid re-housing is much less expensive than running a shelter:

I estimate that the cost per person per year to house someone in a shelter is $990, while the rapid re-housing cost would be $363 on average, with some needing very little assistance and others needing more funding.

“The Community Care Team might provide small rental subsidies to people at risk of becoming homeless to keep them in their current housing. Or the fund could help pay a security deposit or first month rent to a working homeless person needing an apartment.

Gomes said in one recent case a person had family in Massachusetts willing to provide housing and needed only the bus fare to get there. Another family was staying at a relative’s house but literally had no beds to sleep on, so the fund could pay for beds to keep the family intact. Instead of sending people to shelter this coming winter, a caseworker will work with the homeless person to find housing as rapidly as possible.

Facilities and organizations in New London, Norwich and other county towns are now thinking regionally to solve homeless problems.

Lisa Tepper Bates, executive director of the Mystic Area Shelter and Hospitality Inc. and coordinator of the family services portion of the New London County fund, said her group argued successfully before the legislature this spring for renewed funding of up to $250,000 per year for two years in the new biennial state budget.

According to statistics provided to the legislature, 65 individuals in the region were re-housed in less than six months, and the average nightly shelter census dropped more than 30 percent from 2011 to 2012.The percentage of long-term stays also dropped, with about 62 percent of shelter residents staying for 30 or fewer days and 20 percent staying for more than 60 days, a drop of about 10 percent.

Tepper Bates said:

A shelter is still homelessness. Staying in a shelter is a stressful time for adulthood, and doubly or more so for children. The faster we can help a family stay housed, the better we are as a community. The more families we can return to housing, the more we have done for those children. It’s profoundly important. There are very serious and potentially lifelong issues here.


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Family Homelessness is Increasing, But Multiple Strategies Can Reduce It


English: A homeless man in New York with the A...

English: A homeless man in New York with the American flag in the background. Français : Un homme sans domicile fixe à New York. Un drapeau des États-Unis est visible en arrière plan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH) reports that U.S. family homelessness rose by 38% from 2007 to 2010.

A more recent Point-in-Time Count conducted by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) found that on a night in January 2012 families containing 239,403 persons (an estimated 77,157 households) were homeless That number was up 1.4%, over 2011.The Department of Education reports that nearly 1,065,794 public school children were identified as homeless over the course of the 2010-2011 school year (the highest number on record).

Currently the U.S has a shortage of 6.8 million affordable housing units. USICH believes that the most common reasons for families becoming homeless are the inability to find stable housing, loss of a job or doing work that doesn’t pay enough to afford housing, health crises, domestic violence, having children at a young age and lack of a strong social support network.

A report from NCFH states: Without a place to call home, children are challenged by unpredictability, insecurity and chaos. Families experiencing homelessness are vulnerable; most have experienced extreme poverty, residential instability and violence; and many parents have limited education and work histories.

Often, families who are homeless have experienced ongoing trauma in the form of childhood abuse and domestic and community violence, as well as the traumas associated with poverty and the loss of home, safety and sense of security.

These experiences can significantly impact how children and adults think, feel, behave, relate to others and cope. A constant barrage of stressful and traumatic experiences can have profound effects on a child’s development and his/her ability to learn, ultimately affecting success in life.

In June 2010, USICH released a Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, which claimed that adequate funding, political will and commitment at all levels of government could end family homelessness by 2020.

The multi-faceted strategy to accomplish this involves: 1) supporting federal homeless programs, 2) utilizing programs that help children and youths thrive; 3) supporting veterans and their families; 4) reducing and preventing domestic violence and protecting survivors; 5) initiating and supporting trauma-informed care; 6) investing in data collection; and 7) developing best practices.

Reverend Bobbi Virta, of the 44-member Interfaith Coalition on Homelessness in Whatcom County, WA, reports that a 2012 Point-in-Time Count found that 22% of the homeless in her community were younger than 18.

She says:

Homeless families are often doubled-up, moving from one friend’s house to the next. They are sleeping in cars or camping outside. Some are lucky enough to get a voucher for an occasional night in a cheap motel for the chance to shower. Parents are struggling to keep it together, and children are struggling to stay in school.

Although many group shelters separate fathers and boys older than 12 from mothers and daughters, her Coalition’s nine temporary/emergency housing facilities allow families to stay together. She reports that after three months of emergency housing, 90% of the homeless residents leave for stable, long-term housing.

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Aging Street Dwellers Could Remain Homeless for Life Unless More Housing is Found

English: Homeless veteran in New York

English: Homeless veteran in New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness predicted the number of elderly homeless people could increase 33% by 2020 and more than double by 2050.

The alliance recommends that the supply of subsidized affordable housing for economically struggling elderly persons be increased and that permanent housing be created to end chronic homelessness. The alliance also suggests advancing research to better understand the needs of the elderly homeless population.

In Pasadena, CA, homelessness increased more than 21% between 2009 and 2011. The 2010 US Census found that more than 21,000 people in 8,000 households in Pasadena (a fairly wealthy city) had incomes below $15,000 and were considered at-risk for homelessness. Researchers also found that 14% of Pasadena residents were living below the poverty level, including 19% of children, 23% of families with a female head and 13% of people over 65.

Anne Lansing, co-chair of the Pasadena Housing and Homeless Network and project manager for the Pasadena Housing Department says:

As the population ages, the homeless population will age correspondingly with it. If they’ve become homeless when they were seniors, there is a great deal of anger. They feel that society has basically failed in its social contract.

Most of these seniors have been homeless for a long time, aging on the street. Unless there are serious efforts to increase their housing opportunities, many will continue to live on the streets.

Providing for the elderly homeless provides new challenges for agencies, because older people are sicker and require a wide range of medical services. A lack of housing exacerbates their medical problems. Lansing points out that arthritis is more debilitating when one is sleeping on concrete instead of a bed.

Marvin Gross, CEO of Union Station Homeless Services, in Pasadena, says:

We don’t dispense medication, but we work with seniors to make sure that they take certain medications at a certain time. Seniors need more time and attention from our case-management staff.

Union Station offers two health clinics, and its staff arranges doctors’ appointments and ER visits. Staffers also assist those with mobility and mental health issues.

Because many seniors are in poor health, they are unable to perform the activities that enable some younger homeless people to eventually become self-sufficient. So homeless seniors are more likely to remain homeless for the rest of their lives.

Union Station provides employment assistance for its homeless population, but many homeless seniors face age discrimination when they attempt to re-enter the workplace.
Gross adds:

Homelessness is one more barrier to getting a job. Many seniors are disabled and can’t get work.

Elderly people who are homeless are often eligible for government assistance, including Social Security, Medicare, Medi-Cal and Section 8 rent subsidies, but they are often unaware that they qualify for these programs. Or they do not know how to obtain these benefits. Helping senior citizens receive assistance is yet another task that Union Station performs for its residents.

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