Yesterday, the Alliance, along with the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) and some of our other partners, hosted a congressional briefing on chronic homelessness. We hosted Nan Roman (the president of the Alliance) representatives from permanent supportive housing programs from Worcester, MA and Seattle, WA, and Katrina van Valkenberg from CSH.
Turnout was great, with about 30 to 40 staffers from Congressional offices, and the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS). The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness made an appearance as well. It was a terrific event with an appearance by Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina, who gave some very thoughtful remarks on chronic homelessness and what the federal government could to do further invest in ending the problem.
Nan opened with a description of chronic homelessness and the progress we’ve made so far – there were nearly 30 percent fewer people experiencing chronic homelessness in 2008 than there were in 2005.
Paul Lambros with Plymouth Housing Group, a large permanent supportive housing provider in Seattle, talked about their efforts to serve medically fragile homeless individuals. They’ve had incredible success housing people with long homeless histories and improving their health and well-being, resulting in dramatic reductions in the need for emergency room care and hospitalization.
Worcester, Massachusetts was well represented by Tom Gregory, who directs the cities supportive housing. Between January 2009 and January 2010, they reduced chronic homelessness by 38 percent! That’s in one year! Not only that, but because of their success housing people, they are closing a shelter that has always been controversial and is not well liked by the city, the neighbors, or even by the residents of the shelter.
People who experience chronic homelessness often cycle in and out of jails. Katrina, with CSH’s Illinois and Indiana offices, described a Chicago initiative that focuses on homeless people who are frequently incarcerated and frequently use mental health services. They’ve been able to reduce the need for jails and mental health facilities dramatically by providing permanent supportive housing.
But the real showstopper of the event was DC resident Phillip Colbert, who described his journey from a difficult childhood to homelessness – and ultimately into permanent housing. It was an inspiring story that ended with a plea to the people gathered to do everything they could to help Phillip’s friends who are still living on the streets.
Check out this video of Nan presenting the case for affordable housing.