Checking In: Where Are We on Ending Chronic Homelessness?

A Recap:

In March, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced his continued support for The Way Home, the collaborative model to prevent and end homelessness in our area. The Mayor outlined steps the city would take to support The Way Home, including a push to house 500 chronically homeless individuals by September through increased outreach, Housing Navigation, landlord partnership, and more.

A setback occurred in April when the US Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a freeze on the Housing Choice Voucher program. The City of Houston stepped in to find funding to cover the gap left by the voucher freeze, which has helped our partners get back on track with a new goal of housing 500 people by November. Mayor Turner provided an update on these efforts to NPR this week.

How The Way Home works:

  • Clients are assessed for housing at day/emergency shelters, homeless service agencies, or by trained outreach staff.
  • After assessment, they are placed on a centralized waiting list that prioritizes people for housing based on their vulnerability. Factors include: length of time homeless, disability, chronic and other illnesses, and more.
  • Individuals work with a Housing Navigator or case manager to gather documents and complete paperwork required to move into housing.

Since 2011, The Way Home has reduced overall homelessness by 60% and since 2012 has housed more than 11,000 people – but the work isn’t over.

What’s changed since March?

  • Nearly 300 chronically homeless people were housed from March – June 2017. Read about Willie’s path to permanent housing here.
  • Thanks to new funding, we have more Housing Navigators to help clients with everything that needs to be acquired, signed, and delivered to move into housing faster.
  • Shelters have expanded temporary capacity for individuals who haven’t been permanently housed yet.
  • Weekly case management meetings are held to address barriers that often prevent people from getting off the streets: criminal backgrounds, poor rental histories, mental and physical health conditions, and more.
  • Street Outreach Specialists at partner agencies continue to engage homeless individuals in conversation, build trust, and encourage them to get connected to housing.
  • Specialized outreach events are being held to verify we haven’t missed anyone and that anyone who may have fallen out of communication with us are re-assessed and connected to housing as quickly as possible.

What can you do to help?

Help us house more people like Willie!

  • Contact your US Representatives and Senators, asking them to continue funding homeless assistance programs. Houston has a high-performing homeless response system, but we need to ensure that it stays adequately funded. The National Alliance on Ending Homelessness has great resources on how you can be an advocate.
  • Get in touch with our Texas state government and ask for additional and adequate resources for mental health care. We know a small but visible number of people living on the street are mentally ill and may never be able to sign a traditional lease – so housing isn’t their answer. We need higher levels of care to make sure they have a safe place to live permanently that isn’t the street.
  • Give your time! Partners of The Way Home rely on volunteers to provide services to homeless individuals and families – click here for a list of local partners.
  • Donate to the Welcome Home Fund, which provides furniture, home goods, and one-time financial assistance to homeless individuals moving into housing. 100% of the money raised goes directly to clients housed through The Way Home.
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