Posted on February 15, 2012
Three nights ago, the temperature plunged down into the teens and the wind chill factor was even colder than that. Most of us passed the night in the warmth of our heated homes. But according to Homeward’s most recent Point in Time Count, almost 1000 people in our very own community did not have a home in which to sleep that night and more than 100 were forced to sleep outside in public parks, on fire escapes, and in encampments by the river.
Statewide, more than 9,000 Virginians experienced homelessness that night according to estimates by Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Can you imagine sleeping outdoors in that kind of cold? The truly sad part is that we know how to fix homelessness and a solution is within our reach. It’s called permanent supportive housing.
“Permanent supportive housing works,” states John Dearie, board member with the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, in his recent RTD op/ed piece. “Eighty-five to 100 percent of the tenants in…Virginia’s PSH programs have not returned to homelessness. The National Alliance to End Homelessness recently identified the emergence of PSH programs as the single most important factor in reducing chronic homelessness in America in recent years.”
Even more important, according to Dearie, is the fact that the permanent supportive housing model delivers dramatic savings to the community. “A 2010 analysis of Virginia Supportive Housing’s A Place to Start initiative showed that the program had dramatically reduced this hopeless and costly cycle [of chronic homelessness], saving the local community $320,000.”
This is really good news because it means that political consensus is possible. At a time when politicians can’t even agree on the color of the sky, Democrats and Republicans are joining forces to support legislation that paves the way for policy amendments, funding, and eventually, new PSH developments.
Dearie goes on to say, “Much more work remains to be done. According to VCEH, another 7,000 PSH units are needed to end homelessness in Virginia. That’s a daunting number, but it can be achieved. And Virginia has already made impressive progress.”
At Virginia Supportive Housing, we are hopeful and optimistic…but we are also impatient.
Hopeful because we know that permanent supportive housing is what solves homelessness and we work toward that solution each and every day.
Optimistic because advocacy for this evidence-based model is slowly but surely growing, both across the state and across the nation.
Impatient because, for the people who are sleeping outside in frigid weather, that solution can’t happen soon enough.
To read John Dearie’s complete op/ed piece, click here.
To read what the National Alliance to End Homelessness has to say about permanent supportive housing, click here.