One of the poorest cities in the nation is on track to end chronic homelessness. It just needs a few landlords to step in to finish up the job.
Four years ago, Buffalo, New York, had 400 homeless people living on the streets and streaming in and out of shelters. Today, it has knocked that figure down to 25 people, thanks to its collaborative housing efforts, the Homeless Alliance of Western New York said in a press release.
The city’s success is due to its employment of the “housing first” strategy. The approach supports giving housing to people in need, and then dealing with their employment and health issues afterward. Numerous studies have found that the approach is both effective and cost efficient.
Buffalo defines chronically homeless people as those who have been on the streets for at least a year, or have who have cycled regularly in and out of homelessness over the course of three years, according to Buffalo News. The people the city has been targeting also have some form of a disability, including, mental health issues and addiction.
"It's been tough watching a lot of our clients, especially in wintertime. We've seen frostbite, amputations, freezing to death," Jason Flores, homeless outreach supervisor for the Matt Urban Hope Center, told Time Warner Cable news.
As the frigid weather sets in, city agencies have been ramping up their efforts to house the city’s remaining homeless people.
The Homeless Alliance of Western New York and the Western New York Coalition for the Homeless, teamed up to launch the “Home for the Holidays” program. The groups are urging landlords to open up available units to homeless people and are guaranteed that clients will get the support services they need.
Tenants get government rental subsidies and the local agencies provide case management officers. The combination helps clients get off their feet and reduce risks to landlords, according to the Alliance.
If the city is able to house its last 25 homeless people, it could be on target to end chronic homelessness ahead of the nationwide goal.
Dan Schepperly, who spent last winter on the streets, is one such client who has benefited from the city’s housing first efforts. After connecting with the Matt Urban HOPE Center and the Western New York Coalition for the Homeless, Schepperly was able to secure his own apartment.
“When there’s blizzards … negative wind chill. ... There’s like no safe haven to go to,” he told WIVB 4. “So this is huge to wake up warm, take a hot shower, have some food in the fridge.”
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