First off, let me mention that this is not an article about how to change the current system of homeless services to the system that will actually end homelessness – this is only an explanation of how a proper, “homelessness ending” system would work. Other smarter people could tell you more.
Door One – A Single Point of Entry
In each city there would be only one organization that would do the job of intake. Every homeless person receiving help to end their homelessness would process through this one organization. This “intake” would consist of a thorough analysis of each homeless person’s current situation, including an in-depth look at what each person would need so to end their homelessness permanently.
Door Two – Placement into permanent housing with proper wrap-around services.
Door Two could be one organization with several departments, each geared towards the different types of homeless person, or it could be several organizations, each one focusing its services towards a single type of homeless person. (ie alcoholic, mentally ill, dual diagnosed, fiscally inadequate, etc) Door Two would take the homeless people from Door One and place them immediately into an SRO (Single Resident Occupancy) type of housing unit (small apartments or efficiency or boarding houses where each person gets a room to their own with a door they can lock), and assign the proper case managers to them, based on their particular needs.
That’s it. That’s the program – nothing more to it – no religious conversion attempts – no “housing readiness” programs. Homelessness isn’t caused by a lack of religion – homelessness isn’t caused by an inability to fill out a job application form. Certainly these things can help improve the quality of a person’s life, and the case managers working with the homeless in this program can help them to develop these skills. But these things can most certainly wait until after the participant is in their housing unit.
As part of the groundwork for this system, housing property owners, for example, owners of apartment complexes, will be recruited to donate a certain percentage of their properties to this program. Past experience has proven that there are property owners willing to participate in such programs. Perhaps they can get tax credits as an incentive.
Most homeless shelters operate at a cost of 20 to 25 thousand dollars per participant, over a years time. The “Housing First” model I just described can work for as little as 17 thousand dollars per participant.
Each homeless person processed would no longer be homeless and would be receiving the services they need to help them overcome their personal issues. As they overcome their issues they become more stable and less likely to return to the streets. Once they have reached and have maintained a good level of stability, they can be processed out of the system and into a life of true independence.
Yes, there are some people whose issues are so advanced that they will never be able to overcome them all, and will require assistance for the rest of their lives. Still, in this Housing First program, they would incur less of a cost to the city, than if they were left to fend for themselves on the streets. Approximately 85% of all homeless people who take advantage of the Housing First program stay with the program and do no return to the streets. University studies have verified these facts.