Hopeful, Optimistic….But Also Impatient

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.

To find out more about the work of Virginia Supportive Housing, click here.
To support VSH, click here.

1,000 Homes Campaign – What's All The Hoopla About?

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.

Richmond, VA is the first city to join this statewide initiative.  Locally, Homeward and Virginia Supportive Housing are leading the 1,000 Homes for a 1,000 Virginians campaign.

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.

Partners In The Fight To End Homelessness

Posted on May 25, 2010

The collaborative efforts of Virginia Supportive Housing and the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness provide a perfect illustration of how agencies that are focused on the same issue can align strategies and complement each other’s strengths to bring about real change.

The mission of the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness is to prevent and end homelessness in the Commonwealth of Virginia through community collaboration, capacity building, education and advocacy. Although it is not a direct service provider, its work in the areas of statewide research, data collection, policy development, and resource mobilization is critical to the work of Virginia Supportive Housing.

Virginia Supportive Housing’s mission is to provide permanent solutions to homelessness using an integrated approach that combines permanent housing and support services. As a direct service provider, VSH has a “ground-level” perspective of the problem of homelessness which might seem at odds with VCEH’s more abstract perspective. However, neither agency could achieve its mission in the community without the other, and together the two agencies have helped to transform the state’s response to homelessness in many ways.

One of VCEH’s top priorities for 2010 is to increase investment in permanent supportive housing for homeless people with disabilities, ex-offenders, and veterans by conducting a needs assessment and developing an action plan. This priority reflects not just a regional trend (as articulated in Richmond’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness), but also a nationwide shift in focus toward the integrated model utilized with such success by VSH.

By quantifying VSH’s successes in the form of measurable data, VCEH can make pragmatic recommendations borne out by practice. And by implementing evidence-based practices supported by research, VSH can strengthen the case for permanent supportive housing. In this way, the priorities of both agencies can be met in a way that is both mutually beneficial and deeply validating.

For more than two decades, VSH and VCEH have been joining forces in the regional fight to permanently end homelessness. It is collaborations like these that will ultimately put an end to a problem that has plagued our communities for far too long. VSH and VCEH agree – the time to end homelessness is now.

VCEH can’t achieve its mission without you. To support the effort to end homelessness in the Commonwealth of Virginia, become a VCEH member today!

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