Tag Archive for San Diego

Common Ground: Housing the Most Vulnerable

downTown U.S.A.: A Personal Journey with the Homeless

So, what is Common Ground doing? How is it providing a roof to some of the most vulnerable homeless on the streets?

Kara A. Mergl, Director of Research and Evaluation at Common Ground, writes the following on the 100,000 Homes blog:

I guess you can say it all began back in 2003 when Common Ground began piloting its Street-to-Home method. West Midtown Manhattan and the Times Square area of NYC certainly did not look the same back then as they do now.  The program’s major strides were made between 2005, when Becky Kanis made her first NPR appearance, and 2007, when the number of homeless in Times Square decreased by 87%; from 55 street homeless down to just 7. Today, there is only one remaining homeless individual still sleeping on the streets. New York City’s Department of Homeless Services recognized the success of this method and in 2007 deployed it across all five boroughs. The question remained, however, if this method would succeed outside of New York City.

The ability to replicate results is important. Common Ground’s expanded efforts yeilded tangible and positive results in a variety of urban areas, including Los Angeles County:

Other communities, such as Denver, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., began to take notice. One of the first partnerships around this method was with Los Angeles County and Project 50. Project 50, championed by supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, brought together 24 public and private agencies with the shared goal of identifying and housing the 50 most vulnerable homeless individuals living on the streets of Skid Row. At the one-year anniversary of the initial registry, by all measures, Project 50 was a success; 49 individuals housed and an 88% retention rate.

The LA effort proceeded one person at a time. Maurice Lewis was the first people to be handed a key through the program. Aged 54, Lewis had been living on the streets for about a year when he was approached. He said he had spent years “drinkin’ and druggin’,” and also he had heard voices periodically.

The LA Times reporter Christopher Goffard did a great four-part series on these efforts, from which we glean the rundown — in plain English — on how the program works from the standpoint of someone being aided by it:

The terms of Project 50 were explained to him: We have a room for you, your very own. You don’t have to see a shrink. You don’t have to attend substance abuse counseling. All that’s required is that 30% of your income — in Lewis’ case, a $221 monthly general relief check from the county — go toward rent.

The effort is far from over. As the next stage begins, teams of volunteer with be registering the homeless in San Diego. Applying the Plan to End Chronic Homelessness, prepared by the United Way in 2006, is the next step. Training sessions will be held for almost 150 members of the community and civic leaders during the week of September 19.

This training will prepare them for the three consecutive days of pre-dawn excursions onto the streets, during which they will survey and talk with the homeless. The data collected will be used to ID the most vulnerable of that population and get them into housing over the weeks or months following the survey.

If you are interested in more information or in volunteering to assist with the survey, you can check out the San Diego Clean and Safe website.

Source: “Project 50: Four walls and a bed,” LA Times, 08/01-07/10
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the book “downTown USA: A Personal Journey with the Homeless.” Used with permission.

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HUD Funds Five Homeless Shelters for Veterans

Humane Exposures: HUD Funds Five Homeless Shelters for Veterans
Many do not realize it, but a disproportionate number of the homeless faces one sees on American streets are military service veterans. After serving their term, many former members of the military find themselves amongst the dispossessed of our nation, lost in the very society they had defended.

In an attempt to take care of these homeless soldiers, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced $15 million in grants for five cities, including San Diego. The money is earmarked for development of permanent housing for homeless veterans. Camp Pendleton in San Diego is one of the five. The others are: MacDill Air Force Base (Tampa, Florida), Fort Hood (Killeen, Texas), Fort Drum (Watertown, New York), and Joint Base Lewis-McChord (Tacoma, Washington).

HUD states that veteran homelessness has been on the rise due to the escalation of conflicts in the Middle East. Kimberly Dvorak, who covers San Diego County Political Buzz for Examiner.com, notes that each of these communities will receive two million to combat veteran homelessness.  She then goes on to tell us a bit more more about the program:

HUD also announced that the VA medical centers will also receive $1 million in grant money for other veteran needs. The Veterans Homelessness Prevention Demonstration (VHPD) program, through HUD, can provide a ‘continuums of care’ for needy veterans who might be living on the streets or in homeless shelters.

‘The men and women who serve our nation deserve better than a life on the streets when they return home,’  said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. ‘These grants represent a first step toward designing the best interventions possible so that we can prevent homelessness for those heroes who sacrificed so much for us.’

The effort will focus on a triad of homeless issues: housing, health care, and employment services. The last of these are handled through the U.S. Department of Labor. HUD estimates it will take approximately 90 days to identify which veterans and their families are in need, and to render assistance.

More housing seems a great idea, doesn’t it? Still, HUMANE EXPOSURES has discovered that many of the homeless refuse to live inside shelters. Many are addicted to controlled substances and need treatment before they can be accepted into shelters. Others need mental health treatment, including medications, before they would feel comfortable in a shelter environment. Others prefer life on the street.

To quote from interviews conducted by Susan Madden Lankford for the book, downTown U.S.A.: A Personal Journey with the Homeless: “I can’t live with 400 people around me,” “I can’t follow the rules and regulations required inside shelters,” “Something is wrong with me, I do better on the street that I do inside,” “I want to sleep on the pavement.”

Shelters are part of a solution; treatment is a more holistic approach: providing homeless veterans the support to come off the streets if they choose, including proper intake, case analysis, and referrals. There is only one continuum of care; the fact that HUD sees multiple “continuums of care” means it still isn’t treating the whole problem.

Source: “Homeless veterans in 5 cities will get relief housing,” Examiner.com, 07/28/10
Source: Downtown USA: A Personal Journey with the Homeless.
Image by Humane Exposures Publishing, copyright retained; used with permission.

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