Our View: The elusive cure for homelessness is homes.
It sounds so simple: The cure for homelessness is a home. But getting a homeless person from the streets to a house or apartment is anything but simple. It’s a frustrating challenge that has resisted the best efforts of a host of good people and organizations in this and countless other cities.
But in two programs here, we’re seeing reasons for hope.
The story of Ken and Rachel Phillips, told on Page 1 of last Friday’s Observer, shows the way. The couple’s odyssey took them through at least seven states, where they lived with friends or family, or in shelters, or even in their truck. But on Oct. 1, they moved into an apartment of their own, thanks to the efforts of the nonprofit Family Endeavors and a Veterans Affairs initiative to bring homelessness among veterans down to what the VA calls “functional zero.”
The Phillipses’ move into that apartment was the signal that the VA had met that goal in Fayetteville, with more than 280 homeless veterans moving into some form of permanent housing since last year. The funding for that housing comes from Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers – a joint program of the VA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
As programs across the country have found, the first step toward solving homelessness is to move people into housing, and then working to solve their other problems, which might include mental or physical illness, education shortcomings and sometimes addictions.
At Connections of Cumberland County, [a program started as a result of gaps in service identified by members of the Women’s Giving Circle], there are similar stories to be told. The fledgling nonprofit opened cases for 105 homeless women in its first year of operation, and had 89 of them in stable housing by the end of that year. It’s an astonishing accomplishment, one that just won a national honor for the Giving Circle’s members.
Both programs require accountability from the people they put into new homes, and work intensively with them to make sure they get back on their feet and become self-supporting, contributing members of society again.
Larissa Witt, the veteran services program manager for Family Endeavors, believes a similar program would work for the general population as well. “We can have the same process for every person on the street,” she said. “we can end all homelessness with these same strategies.”
That’s a powerful thought. We hope it propels a more cohesive approach to ending – or at least sharply diminishing – homelessness in the Fayetteville region.
Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 12:00 am | Updated: 12:00 am, Tue Oct 27, 2015.