Ending Homelessness: Get Informed

Here are some numbers

These numbers come from the “point in time” count of the homeless which takes place every January.   In 2015, there were 1,593 chronically homeless single adults in Washington DC, down from 1,609 in 2014 and from 2,093 in 2011.  There were also 3,477 homeless families in 2015 down from 3,795 in 2014 but way up from 2,688 in 2011.  There were in total 7,298 people in Washington DC who did not have a home in January 2015 which includes both sheltered and unsheltered people.

What is being done?

The good news is that Washington DC is on track to end homelessness among veterans this year!   As of the beginning of November, 2015 80% of the veterans who were unhoused at the start of 2015 have been housed.  The DC Interagency Council on Homelessness has created a strategic plan to end chronic homelessness by 2017 and to make homelessness a brief, rare and non-recurring experience by 2020.  Finally the DC council just approved Mayor Bowser’s plan to close the family shelter at DC General by creating six smaller replacement shelters throughout the city. See the Washington Post report here.

There are many great organizations in Washington advocating to increase the number of permanent supportive housing units in the city, including Miriam’s Kitchen100,000 HomesN Street VillageSOME (So Others Might Eat), and the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development (CNHED)Good Faith Communities Coalition and the Washington Interfaith Network are two coalitions of faith communities who also work on this issue among others. Foundry is an active member of both of these coalitions.

The Way Home is a campaign created by these same groups and others (over 60 and counting!) focused on ending chronic homelessness through a housing first model.  

Who are the chronically homeless?

A chronically homeless person is someone who has a disabling condition and is homeless for long periods of time or repeatedly. Because of these disabling conditions, these individuals are less likely than others to be able to exit homelessness on their own. They are more likely to die on the streets because their homelessness impairs their ability to manage their disabling conditions, leading chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension to worsen.

What is permant supportive housing?

There are many causes of homelessness from the lack of affordable housing to low wage jobs to mental illness and drug addiction.  There is no one size fits all plan.  But there is a solution to end chronic homelessness.

At Foundry and in communities across the country, we have seen that permanent supportive housing (PSH), also known as Housing First, ends chronic homelessness. PSH moves participants immediately from the streets or shelters into permanent housing, while providing intensive supportive services to help residents maintain their housing and improve their lives.

Foundry’s mission is driven by the belief that all people deserve the right to live in dignity. While we are motivated by a moral imperative, we could argue for PSH purely based on the economics:

  • Housing First is amazingly cost-effective. It reduces reliance on more expensive crisis-related services like emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, and jails.  A Seattle study found that Housing First saved the city almost $30,000 per person, per year.

 

  • Housing First is a better investment than shelters.  The Urban Institute reports that “at least half the District’s shelter capacity for single adults would not be needed if all the long-term shelter stayers were moved to permanent supportive housing.” [i]
  • Housing First improves health outcomes.   A Denver study of Housing First residents before and after enrollment in the program found that approximately half had improved health and mental health status which led to a 72% decline in emergency-related costs.[ii]

What is Foundry doing?

Foundry’s Ending Homelessness Action Team is ready to pitch in wherever our partner organizations need help.   We organize educational events and join in advocacy efforts around the DC budget.   We provide what motivates politicians - voters who show up and demand change!

 


[i] Burt & Hall. Urban Institute, Major Recommendations: Summary Report of the Urban Institute’s Assessment of the DC Homeless Assistance System., (June 2008)

[iii] http://shnny.org/research/denver-housing-first-collaborative/

Read more in the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development research report"Permanent Supportive Housing A Cost Effective Alternative in the District of Columbia".  Other reports by CNHED can be found here.