It’s been a tough recently for California. The state of sand and stars has been plagued by political controversy and economic troubles leaving state and local leaders with some very tough choices.
Still, there are nuggets of good news coming out of the Golden State.
In Alameda County, for instance, we’re seeing some marked and measurable decreases in homelessness. In spite of the recession, in spite of the housing crisis, in spite of the state’s budget troubles – the county of Alameda is managing to reduce homelessness for their community.
In 2003, Alameda County identified over 5,000 people who experienced homelessness on a given night – 43 percent of those people were persons in families with children.
But over the last few years, the city has implemented some best practiced that have yielded real results.
Among those best practices was Housing First, an approach to ending homelessness that centers on providing homeless people with housing as quickly as possible – and then providing services as needed. Between 2005 and 2009, the county created 512 permanent housing units and carefully targeted those units to those who needed them most.
The city also developed the Priority Home Partnership (PHP) using funds provided by the federal governments Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). PHP is an integrated, multi-agency approach to preventing homelessness that involved centralized screening at intake and an innovative assessment tool that aims to provide households and families the right mix of housing and services to prevent homelessness from occurring.
The county also created a Homeless Outreach and Stabilization Team (HOST) and strategic working committees that represented a diversity of community interests and were tasked with creating new permanent housing units through increasing awareness, capacity, and resources.
Alameda County was one of the first communities in the country to create a collaborative, multi-system plan to end homelessness, including the city of Oakland, city of Berkeley, the Alameda County Social Services Agency, Housing and Community Development Department, Behavior Health Care Services, and nine other sponsoring agencies. This partnership initiated the Alameda County Countywide Homeless and Special Needs Plan, known as the EveryOne Home plan.
The county’s collaborative, dedicated approach has created real results. From the initial 2003 survey, homelessness in Alameda County has declined by 15 percent overall. Family homelessness has decreased by 27 percent; chronic homelessness has decreased by 20 percent. Homelessness among children has decreased by 33 percent.
For more information on the great work of this community, please check out the 2-page snapshot on the Alliance website.