Posted on April 5, 2011
Across Virginia, communities are accepting that homelessness is solvable. 1,000 Homes for 1,000 Virginians is a statewide initiative – led by the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness – to house the 1,000 most vulnerable Virginians cycling between the streets, emergency shelters, hospital emergency rooms, jails, and prisons.
As part of the national 100,000 Homes Campaign, the 1,000 Homes for 1,000 Virginians initiative aims to compile information about the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness, in Richmond and in other communities across the state and then systematically house them before their homelessness causes them to die.
So, why should we jump on this bandwagon and join this campaign? Isn’t our community already permanently housing the most vulnerable individuals including people who are chronically homeless?
Well, we’re trying to, but we’re not always successful. Last year, VSH successfully moved 13 individuals from our South Richmond supportive housing into their own apartments in the community. This allowed us to fill the vacated apartments with individuals who were living on the streets or in shelters. One of the individuals who moved into one of these vacant units had been homeless a year and was sick when he moved into this apartment. Shortly after he moved in, he was hospitalized and never made it back to his new home.
Life on the street and in shelters is not merely uncomfortable and dangerous – it is often lethal as well. Individuals experiencing homelessness are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than the general population resulting in an average lifespan 25 years shorter than that of the average American.
In 2010 according to Homeward, 17 people in our community like the gentleman who moved into South Richmond died while homeless or soon after exiting homelessness. We should not accept this in this community. It does not have to happen and indeed we’re hoping that it does not happen again.
In Richmond, there are approximately 943 homeless adults, and 165 living on the streets. Forty-eight percent of homeless adults report a long-term disability. And surprisingly, the cost of homelessness is higher than that of providing housing. Public services, tax dollars, and people all benefit from housing the homeless.
In undertaking the 1,000 Homes campaign, Richmond will follow the objectives and strategies of the national campaign. On Friday, April 1, 2011, Mayor Dwight Jones helped us launch the campaign and put all of his backing behind the effort. The launch was attended by community leaders from all sectors including health care providers, housing and homeless service providers, local and State government, and foundations. The campaign launch sets the stage for a registry week in late July, followed by steps to permanently house the community’s most vulnerable citizens.
In the next few months, we will:
1) Build a strong action-oriented local team that is ready to drive tangible housing outcomes;
2) Conduct a census in our community to clarify the demand for housing and create a by-name, photograph registry to help determine the need for local resources;
3) Line up housing and support resources by bringing together private, non-profit and mainstream sources of housing and services to house people using person-specific data;
4) Move people into housing by working together to match people to the housing, service models, and rental supports best targeted to their needs;
5) Help people stay housed by partnering with community agencies to ensure that housed individuals are able to maintain housing, critical to the success of the program.
In short, by working together and specifically identifying and housing those most likely to die if left unhoused, we will do what we have not been able to do before—prevent people from dying on the streets by connecting a real person to an apartment immediately and giving that person a chance to survive and thrive in stable housing. Find out more about how you can join us in this worthwhile effort. Send an e-mail to [email protected] to learn more about volunteer opportunities or attend an information session. We can’t do it without your help.