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Ending Chronic Homelessness

What does it mean to end chronic homelessness? We should first begin with what we aren’t saying:

We aren’t saying that no one will ever meet the definition of chronic homelessness (a person with a disability who is homeless for over a year/four or more episodes) ever again.

We aren’t saying that we will cease services to those who are disabled or long term homeless.

Ending chronic homelessness means that we have built a homelessness alleviation system large and comprehensive enough to house everyone who experiences chronic homelessness.

It means that we have a system in place to prioritize the neediest people experiencing homelessness into housing first or permanent supportive housing beds. Ending chronic homelessness means that we are prepared to meet the needs of all of our community members who find themselves needing that sort of assistance.

This is done through

  • Having enough beds in permanent supportive housing programs
  • Having outreach and shelter staff who are able to assess homeless people for eligibility and enter this information into HMIS
  • Having a centralized list (currently accomplished through HMIS)
  • Having funding sources that will support the above system. Currently the CoC funds rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing (including housing first), and HMIS. Emergency Solutions Grants partially fund HMIS and outreach teams, as well as the emergency shelters that may be the point of first contact for a person in the homelessness alleviation system.

What will we do when we’ve reached this milestone? Our work isn’t done, but it simply shifts to those who were not prioritized previously as they were determined to be less needy than others. In house we call them the “near-chronics”. This would likely be those who are very sick but have not lived on the streets for a prolonged duration of time. Of course, as new chronically homeless people are identified, they would be prioritized for existing housing.

 

Our ultimate goal is to have a housing safety net for all people that experience homelessness tailored to the degree of assistance that they require, be it a voucher for permanent supportive housing for those with the most medical difficulties or a rapid rehousing voucher for a family that simply needs a couple month’s help to get back on their feet. The best way to end homelessness is to ensure that everyone has a home.