Working to End Homelessness

Today’s guest blogger is Ali Ryder, a Planner with OrgCode Consulting.

This week, I had the privilege of being invited by the fine folks at Heartland Alliance to act as a coach at their Working to End Homelessness Innovation Workshop, part of their Connections Project.  It was a fantastic opportunity to meet with great people from across the country, who were all excited to try new innovative approaches to connect homeless people with employment!  I learned so much, but here are my top takeaways:

1. Everyone wants to break silos, but no one is 100% sure how to do it

A lot of project teams said that there were great housing programs in their community, and great employment programs in their community, but since they had different goals and funding streams, it was always identified as a challenge to get these programs to work together.

2. There are a lot more federal programs than people know about

Did you know that you can use Medicaid to help fund Permanent Supportive Housing?  Did you know that people on disability can work and still receive their benefits?  Did you know that there’s a program called the Family Self-Sufficiency program, operated by HUD that incentivizes low income families in RGI to increase their income without being penalized on rent, and that any housing providers (not just a housing authority) can implement the same program for their tenants?  Did you know that there’s a new HUD program called Jobs-Plus?  Or that there’s funding to help youth to expunge or seal their criminal records?  Or that HUD has a $15 million annual budget to provide technical assistance for communities?  I’m willing to bet you knew some of those, but not all!

3. “Collective Impact” is the new buzzword

Collective Impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem, using a structured form of collaboration (definition from Wikipedia).” Okay, maybe it’s not so new, but isn’t getting everyone to work together a good thing?

4. There’s a lot of talent out there

The Innovation Workshop was just the top 10 teams from across the country, and they all had great ideas!  I’m sure not jealous of the team at Heartland Alliance that has to figure out which ones are the best of the best.

5. Engaging the business sector can be done, but it requires thinking a certain way

If you’re trying to engage regular business people with your program, you need to make sure you speak their language.  Instead of asking them for a favor (“please, just give this guy/gal a chance!”), turn the tables.  How are you helping them?  Maybe they’re a landlord or employer with a high turnover rate, and they don’t want to go through yet another hunt for a new tenant/employee.  Tell them how you are helping them save time and effort.  And then follow through – it doesn’t work if you make a promise and don’t deliver.

6. The ending homelessness realm is actually pretty progressive

You might not believe me, but think about this.  There was a way we used to do things, and then a couple people started trying to do things differently.  They called it Housing First.  It worked really well.  Other people tried it.  It caught on.  The federal government is behind it.  There’s funding changes that support evidence-based and evidence-informed best practices.  The HEARTH act is referred to as a “game-changer.”  We know things about how you can get the biggest impact by focusing on persons with the highest needs.  We have assessment tools that efficiently help case managers know exactly what kind of intervention would be best for an individual.

In contrast, what is there for trying to connect a similar population for employment?  The very same innovators that attended this Workshop (who were more knowledgeable about employment programs than me) said that the system was backwards, encouraging programs to help people who were “job-ready” and easy to help.  And for those with higher needs, there was no tool to help service providers identify whether they would be good candidates for supported employment, job training, or something else entirely.

7. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is an opportunity

It’s a new piece of legislation that, among other things, requires states to develop new strategies, and look at the barriers of individual job seekers.  This is an opportunity for CoC leaders to get involved in the planning process, and have input on how to make better connections to employment programs.

8. There’s a lot of interest in a tool like the SPDAT, but with an employment focus

Maybe it’s something we should work on in the future.  What do you think?


Develop and Support Homelessness Advisory Board

Those who are are were homeless and those who had or have friends and family in homelessness.

Stop the process of "churning," discharging from shelters just because time is up. HUD Policy says a shelter must "have" a policy, but doesn't limit it to the standard of 30 or 60 days with an extension.




At Focus Strategies we believe that in America people living on the streets and in shelters is an unnecessary tragedy. Even with growing income inequality, poverty and high housing costs, no one has to be without a place to live for more than 30 days. We believe this based on the growing evidence from around the country and our own work which shows that with a reorientation of approach and resources, we can effectively end homelessness in our communities.

But to reach this vision, our approach to addressing homelessness must change.

What happened? Many factors led to the development of modern homelessness as we know it today. When modern homelessness first emerged it was treated as a crisis, and emergency shelters were opened across the country to shelter people who didn’t have housing. But as the problem increased, the field took a wrong turn. Although we understood that most poor people lose their housing as a result of a crisis1, we focused our attention on the many problems we identified within the people...lack of education, substance use, domestic violence. When emergency shelters did not solve the problem of homelessness, we began to add more services, longer stays, more expertise, more "programming" for people to "help them" while they were still homeless. The Federal government increasingly put money into longer-term programs and together we created "homeless people." Even while many of us were saying "housing ends homelessness", we invested ever greater resources in serving people without housing, rather than housing them.

This is not to say that the people who lack housing may not need assistance tailored to their specific needs. Quite the opposite. Many issues can contribute to a crisis. Help to address these issues and to achieve greater self-sufficiency is important for many households, both housed and temporarily unhoused. But if we use our limited re-housing resources for these services, we will always serve the few and ignore the many who need help.

Changing the response: Changing our response requires basing our approach on what the data tells us. We know that most people who have lost their housing are indistinguishable from very low-income people who have housing, with one major difference – right now, they are not housed. Many people in America face significant challenges to their household stability and well-being. Nearly 47 million Americans are living in poverty. On a given night there are only approximately 610,000 people who are homeless. Many, many poor people have the same issues that we associate with people who are homeless, and yet they are not homeless and do not require intensive services to make them "suitable" or "ready" for housing. We would not go into the homes of every person who has a substance abuse problem, mental health issue, budgeting difficulties, relationship problems, poor education, underemployment, or other problems, take them out of their housing, and put them in a holding place while they worked on those things. And yet, with people who have no housing we do exactly that – we identify these things as the "reasons" for their homelessness and try to fix them before we help them get housed.


1 Medical crisis, sudden loss of income, domestic violence or family dissolution are the primary precursors to homelessness.

Similarly, research tells us that once people who have lost housing are rehoused, the vast majority remain housed even under conditions that appear to be unsustainable. Most people who experience a period of homelessness become rehoused fairly quickly, with or without help. Some people with extensive barriers to housing need ongoing support, but the majority do not. Assistance to simply regain housing and connect to other support is sufficient to end homelessness for most people.

Ending "homelessness" means changing our idea of what our field is here to do. What we need is not just a funding shift – though we need that—and not just a change of programs – though we need that too. It is a wholesale re-visioning of what we are trying to accomplish and how we measure the impact of our work. We must begin to see our role as the people who get people who have nowhere to live housed. Not the people who fix poverty, not the people who provide job training, or treat substance abuse or mental illness – though we may need to help some of our clients get those services– but the people who help get other people into housing.

The housing crisis resolution system is like a hospital emergency department. Practitioners who work in ED’s have a different view of their jobs than General Practitioners. ED docs are there to stop the crisis from getting worse, to save lives, and get people back to the lives they were leading. General Practitioners are there to help a person address their health issues holistically and over the long-term by making different life choices or trying different medical interventions. Similarly, we are here to help people without housing have a place to live.

There is an entire anti-poverty system designed to help with other needs that impact long-term well-being, such as education, employment, and behavioral health. Along the way, like an ED ensuring the patient gets an appointment with a specialist for follow-up or making suggestions for life changes, we may help households on the road to greater well-being and economic improvement, but the responsibility of the crisis resolution system is to use all of its resources to do what no one else does well: help people with the most difficulty getting housing to get and keep the housing they need.

To do this, every community must develop a Housing Crisis Resolution System that takes as its mission one thing: to rehouse people who are without housing, and to do so within 30 days.

Providers in this system must:

 Move from a "my clients" approach to an "our clients" approach that recognizes that all people without housing can and should be offered assistance

 Measure success on the numbers of people they successfully rehouse, how quickly and how permanently

 Orient their programs and staff to this approach; and reorient the private resources they control to this end

Funders of this system must:

 Invest their resources in proven interventions that result in people gaining and maintaining housing at the least cost possible


 Use outcome metrics to measure the impact of their investments and move their funding as needed, even if it means no longer supporting historical programs the community values and perceives as effective

 Commit to a systematic approach to providing assistance to all, and insist that it be followed

Leaders and advocates in this system must:

 Use data to inform decisions and to make the case

 Clarify the message so that the purpose and goals of the system are well understood by provider, clients, decision-makers and the public

 Insist that funders at all levels use their homeless dedicated resources to end homelessness

 Advocate for additional resources if needed only after using all current resources

Clients in this system must

 Be empowered to make decisions in their own interest

 Be given the dignity to succeed without support, or with support if they choose

 Stop seeing themselves as "homeless" and share responsibility for maintaining their housing to the best of their ability

See our related publication, Housing Crisis Resolution System for a description of the needed components and a crosswalk for how to get there.

Together we can end homelessness.







What works and must continue Challenges to overcome

Family Shelter

• Single point of access for homeless families at the new YWCA Family Center helps families find housing quickly.

• “One-shot” rent assistance has prevented homelessness.

• Families leave for stable housing at higher rates than before and are returning less often.

• Prevention assistance has decreased family homelessness by 55%.


• Length of stay in emergency shelter is increasing.

• Families have experienced a significant drop in income over time, with more families arriving with few benefits and no income.


Single Adult Shelters

• Two new men’s shelters have been created with improved living spaces and services.

• Homeless single adults who are intoxicated have improved linkages to alcohol and drug treatment.

• Certification standards have resulted in higher-quality facilities and services.

• Shelter locations are more evenly distributed than at the start of Rebuilding Lives.


• Although demand for men’s shelter remained flat after 2003, demand for women’s shelter has risen steadily and significantly.

• There is no single point of entry allowing persons seeking shelter to be matched with housing and services.

• The rate for exiting shelters for stable housing is low.

• Many people could exit homelessness more quickly if shelters helped people better secure income and benefits.


Homeless Outreach Programs

• People living outdoors have been assisted by the new Critical Access to Housing program.


• On a single night in January 2007, 114 single adults lived unprotected outdoors, despite efforts of nine outreach programs.

• The homeless outreach system is fragmented among programs, causing duplication and gaps in coverage.


Permanent Supportive Housing

• Permanent supportive housing reduces the use of shelters significantly.

• Permanent supportive housing programs have increased the number and types of housing options.

• Programs increased income residents received from employment and mainstream benefits.

• The cost of these programs is much lower than costs for stays in prison or inpatient psychiatric hospital care.

• The current supply of supportive housing for


• Because permanent supportive housing is scarce, many homeless people cannot leave emergency shelter.

• Current residents have no incentives to “move up” to more independent housing.

• No coordinated system is in place for intake, assessment, or referral to permanent supportive housing.


633,782 homeless in US
450,000 churches in US is 1.4
18,443 towns 34 homeless per town


BOSS operates a network of housing and support service programs in Berkeley, Oakland, and Hayward. All programs employ 4 core strategies for fighting homelessness and poverty:

BOSS programs provide whatever level of support people need and request in order to build health, wellness, and self-sufficiency. Some people come to BOSS for one-time or temporary assistance. Others with histories of chronic homelessness and more serious challenges may engage in BOSS services for longer periods of time. BOSS also provides specialized programs for homeless children and youth.

BOSS also partners with other social justice and direct service organizations to achieve shared goals.

The path to wellness is unique for each person. As long as participants are working towards their goals, respect program rules, and respect those around them, we continue to provide assistance and be part of their circle of support.

If you are homeless, disabled, or low-income and looking for assistance, please call (510) 843-3700, BOSS's Multi-Agency Service Center. It is open 7 days a week (call for hours) at 1931 Center Street in downtown Berkeley. This program has information about all BOSS services and makes referrals throughout the organization.

For details on what is offered and expected at certain BOSS programs, visit the BOSS Resources & Programs site.

For information and links to other services available in the community, visit the BOSS Resources & Programs site.




Supports and Services For Homeless Families The Open Health Services and Policy Journal, 2010, Volume 3


All families need permanent housing and some mixture of services and supports through the lifecycle. All of us are interdependent and cannot survive in a society as complex as ours without the help and support of others. Emerging evidence and clinical experience supports this view. For example, a qualitative study using focus groups and survey questionnaire in 10 sites, conducted by Health Care for the Homeless Clinicians’ Network and the National Center on Family Homelessness, summarized this view. Theyconcluded that "all programs serving homeless families and children should provide a core group of support services central to stabilizing families and improving their well being" [33]. They defined an array of critical services for the "overwhelming majority of mothers and children," but also emphasized that these services must be tailored to the family’s evolving needs [33]. Without services, many families will fall back into homelessness or remain isolated in permanent housing [9]. We are proposing the following framework as a way of understanding the layers of supports and services critical to the lives of homeless families and children.

The service needs of families who are homeless fall on a continuum, best illustrated in the shape of a bell-shaped curve (see diagram, next page). The typical or average homeless family – comprising approximately 80% of all homeless families – has ongoing support and service needs that may wax and wane over time; may be episodic in nature; and will vary in intensity with life circumstances, transitions, and stressors. However, overall this indicates the need for ongoing supports and some level of services over the family's lifetime. This paradigm is not so different from the lives of many middle-income families, many of whom access supports and services such as counselors, specialized

health care, and educational resources in raising theirchildren.

On either side of the bell curve are a small number offamilies – on the left perhaps 10% who need only basicservices and transitional supports. By contrast, on the rightside of the curve, another 10% of families need lifetimeincome supports and high levels of intensive services inorder to maintain their families in permanent housing (Fig.1).

In sum, 90% of families experiencing homelessness – those in Tiers 2 and 3 – need some ongoing infusion of supports and services. As previously described, this is no different than the needs of families from other socioeconomic groups, except that many of these families have a larger economic and social margin that helps to facilitate these connections and ensures access, availability and robustness of support networks and services. For example, in a middle class family, it is less likely that expending resources on a medical illness of a family member will destabilize the family.

The 10%-80%-10% breakdown corresponds to three tiers of services.


All families regardless of their socioeconomic status, need the following basic combination of supports and services to survive and maintain their families:

• Affordable permanent housing. Housing has been described as "the foundation of family life," from which safety, stability, self-worth, health and well-being stem [34]. To raise their children and participate in the economic and social community, families must live in affordable, permanent housing that is safe and stable.

• Jobs that pay a livable wage. To keep a family secure, household wage earners must earn enough income to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, utilities, health care, and child care.

• Child care. Child care is a major expense for most American families, and for families living in poverty, it is essential but often unattainable [35]. Without child care, mothers with young children cannot work. Many homeless mothers do not have extended families to count on and must depend on child care vouchers. Researchers examining welfare recipients’ entrance into the workforce have found that access to child care facilitates this transition and that regular child care arrangements are associated with greater job stability and retention [36].

• Health care. Families experiencing homelessness often have significant health complications (e.g.,asthma, hypertension, developmentally delays, mental health issues such as depression or anxiety), and these health conditions may have contributed to their homelessness. More than one in three low-income parents without insurance spent less on food, heat, or other basic needs in order to pay for health care in2005 [31, 37]. Seven out of 10 households


experiencing foreclosure state that it is due to medical disruptions and expenses [38].

• Transportation. Employers report that transportation is a major barrier to retaining former welfare recipients, or even hiring them in the first place. Transportation is also essential for parents to bring their children to and from child care/school, maintain social supports, and buy groceries and other household items [39].

• Basic services for children. These include opportunities such as: attending developmental day care, succeeding in school, engaging in creative play in safe environments, access to after school activities, and receiving health care.

Finding affordable housing and accessing basic mainstream services and supports can be a challenging task, especially when a family is homeless and stressed. To accomplish this, "transitional supports" are critical. As we were reminded after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, where 2.5 million people were displaced, the loss of a home and eventual relocation are extremely stressful, traumatic events. The road back home is often a bumpy one, with many unexpected twists and turns. We know from this and other disasters that years later many people have had difficulty restarting their lives.

Furthermore, homelessness is a life altering experience, which can have profound, long-term impact on family members. The hallmark of homelessness is not only the loss of ones home, but disconnection from neighborhoods, community, reassuring routines, belongings, relationships, safety, and security. Sociologist Kai Erikson [40] writes that homelessness is:

"…the outer envelope of personhood. People need location almost as much as they need shelter, for a sense of place is one of the ways they connect to the larger human community. You cannot have a neighbor (or be one) unless you are situated yourself. You cannot be counted a townsperson unless you have an address. You cannot be a member unless you are grounded somewhere in communal space. That is the geography of the self…then, to be homeless is to live on the outer edges of the human circle, if not to be excluded from it altogether – to be of another kind, maybe even of another species." [40]

Transitional supports bridge the gap between shelters and the community, prevent recurrent homelessness, and ensure community integration. The goal of transitional services is to reconnect people experiencing homelessness to community resources, services and supports. Supports should be mobilized when a family is homeless and remain in place until the family is fully connected to community supports and services. The goal is to support connection to natural supports as well as more formal mainstream services and supports when necessary and to prevent future homelessness.

Critical time intervention (CTI) is one way to provide the transitional supports needed by homeless people. CTI is an evidence-based practice (see www.nrepp.samhsa.gov)originally designed to bridge the gap in services for adults with severe mental illness and homelessness as they moved from institutions to the community, a critical transition when people are most likely to drop out of housing [41]. It is based on the premise that individuals are more likely to maintain stable housing if they are connected to critical supports and services. This nine-month intervention begins in the shelters and continues through stabilization in the community. It has three phases: 1)Transition to Community that allows clients and case managers to jointly formulate a treatment plan and connect to services while still in shelter; 2) Try-Out that involves assessing, testing and adjusting systems of community support; and 3) Transfer of Care that fine tunes the community support network to ensure stable, long-term linkages. Originally developed for homeless individuals experiencing mental illness, it has recently been adapted for use with homeless families as part of the Second Chance Families Program-CTI for Young Families [42].

In sum, all families experiencing homelessness need some level of supports and services to successfully transition

out of homelessness. A small subgroup of families – roughly 10% – will fare extremely well with this modest package of supports and services. This subgroup will find jobs that pay livable wages, and have flexible hours and benefits. They will have child care (often from extended family) and adequate transportation. Most importantly, their children will be faring well and have no special medical, developmental, behavioral, or academic issues. Once they transition out of homelessness, they are connected to natural supports and may not need specialized services.


Most homeless families – approximately 80% – fall into the second tier of services and supports. These families must have all the supports and services described in Tier 1 and additional ongoing services. The need for these services is likely to change over time. Some may be needed only for the short-term, others episodically, while still others over a lifetime. The intensity and duration of these services may also wax and wane. As discussed earlier, this is the normative situation – the one that applies to most homeless families and to most families overall. Think of your own family and their changing needs over time. Everyone’s family at one time or another has variable medical needs. Others may have children with special learning,developmental or behavioral needs. Many families have members struggling with complicated emotional health issues. Most families also require supports to help them through difficult transitions such as divorce, pregnancy and birth of a child, and support for aging parents. Services needed may be of varying levels, intensity, and duration, and may wax and wane over time.

For families experiencing homelessness, the array ofspecialized services needed, in addition to those listed in Tier 1, may include:

1. Education and Job Opportunities

Education and jobs are critical levers for ensuring self-support. More than half of homeless mothers lack a high school education, which translates into low-paying jobs. In 2005, people with high school diplomas earned an average of $10,000 more than those without ($19,915 vs $29,448) [43]. Most homeless or formerly homeless mothers work in minimum wage service sector entry level jobs with a mean income 46% below the poverty line. To become self-supporting they must get a GED or high school diploma and find jobs that keep pace with housing costs.

2. Services for Traumatic Stress and Mental Health

There has been a long debate in the homelessness field about the relationship of mental health and homelessness and the rightful concern that focusing on emotional issues labels and dehumanizes people, and blames the victim.

Mental health problems "are one of the greatest public health challenges in contemporary medicine" [44]. Not only are they extremely common and protracted, but they account for untold suffering. Many of these disorders lurk below the horizon, affecting daily functioning, relationships, and work. As discussed above, many homeless mothers are dealing with post traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety. They may medicate their distress with substances. PTSD and depression are common and can be effectively treated. The

pathways to healing and recovery are numerous. With the emergence of a myriad of evidence-based practices in this area, families and children can benefit significantly (see www.nrepp.samhsa.gov). Without appropriate supports, the outcomes and the impact on families and children can be devastating.

3. Family Supports

The high prevalence of separations of homeless children from their parents has been well documented and ranges from 18-44 percent in all families. Factors contributing to these separations include: social service and child welfare policies, abuse and neglect, shelter eligibility criteria, and parental efforts to protect their children from the experience of homelessness [45].

For families with children in the foster care system, programs such as the Family Unification Program (FUP), signed into law in 1990, help them reunite. Through partnerships with local public housing authorities and child welfare agencies, FUP provides families with Section 8 housing subsidies and the supportive services necessary to reunite with their children who would otherwise linger needlessly in foster care [46].

Many families experiencing homelessness are headed by a single parent, and as such, face unique challenges. These families may benefit from parenting supports and resources. One example of the impact of that these supports can have is currently being documented through the Strengthening At Risk and Homeless Young Mothers and Children Initiative, a multi-site demonstration project that supports locally-based partnerships that include housing/homelessness, child development agencies, as well as those that address family preservation, domestic violence, mental health, substance use, and other support services. In year one of the evaluation, researchers have noted that clients feel that they have become better parents through skills learned while in the program and that they have seen positive changes in their children (e.g., developmental, emotional, academic) [47].

Home visiting is another example of services that support families and children experiencing homelessness. By meeting families where they are currently living, whether it is in shelter, transitional housing, or other temporary settings, home visiting provides continuous services and reduces barriers to care. Intervening early can help mitigate some of the physical and emotional health issues associated with homelessness, resulting in better long-term outcomes [48]. One-on-one services are provided in a family’s home, giving families critical support and allowing for early detection of problems [49]. Parents are taught skills that enable them to be more confident and to provide supportive home environments for their children [49]. Several programs across the country use home visiting programs with families experiencing homelessness [47, 50-53]. These programs have found that home visiting helps reduce many of the negative impacts of homelessness and prepares children for school, strengthens the parent-child bond, and decreases maternal isolation.

4. Services for Children

Because their parents often have complicated and intense needs, children experiencing homelessness are often

overlooked. Children are not just "along for the ride." They have experienced stresses similar to their parents, butthrough the lens of childhood. They have fewer coping skills to understand what has happened to them, and their fear and anxiety may manifest in various mental health, behavioral, and medical complications.

In addition to the services described in Tier 1, children who experience homelessness may also need access to quality mental health screening and treatment, attention to special physical and/or developmental health needs, special educational services, and more.

To summarize Tier 2, approximately 80% of all homeless families need an array of supports and specialized services that are flexibly provided and can respond to their changing needs over the lifecycle.


The final 10% of families require income supports as well as lifelong ongoing, often intensive, services and supports in order to maintain their families in housing and ensure the well being of all family members. Many of these families have a member with some combination of a serious medical, mental health and substance use problem. For example, a family with a child who has autism will require ongoing supports and specialized services as the child grows. Serious medical problems, such as autism, may dominate and drive the family experience.


The Tier system proposed in this paper provides a framework for designing services and supports for families without homes. Future research must articulate clear definitions of services and supports. Few studies describe services clearly or specify what works for whom, in what settings, and with what intensity, duration and outcomes. What is meant by "case management" or "advocacy"? Further investigation into these questions will inform efforts to support vulnerable families and help to end homelessness.

At the heart of this discussion is the unanswered question of whether homeless families are fundamentally different than extremely poor low income families. Empirical research has not yet conclusively answered this question. However, we do know that there is at least one dramatic difference between these groups. Families experiencing homelessness have lost their homes – an experience that is profound and life-altering. We know from extensive studies of various natural disasters such as the extensively studied 1972 Buffalo Creek Disaster in West Virginia when 16 coal mining communities were destroyed after a dam broke. Years later, people were still suffering from the aftermath and had not been able to reintegrate into community life or rebuild their communities.

More recently, we have seen the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Four years later, communities are still reeling and hundreds of thousands of people are having difficulty restarting their lives. Homelessness is like the hurricane or the breaking of the dam in Buffalo Creek. It is devastating for a mother to be unable to protect her children and devastating to children to lose their homes.

The rigid adherence to the belief that most families can "go it alone" and become self-sufficient is embedded in our culture. The deeply held American belief of rugged individualism emerges from another era – when the frontier and American West were being settled. As our country has grown into a global economy we are beset by complex interdependencies. The Horatio Alger myth that hard work and virtue will ensure success is also no longer true. To survive in this complex world we must depend on each other. With this in mind, we believe that the notion of self-sufficiency should be discarded in favor of economic self-support. We should each take a closer look at what all American families require to survive and thrive. As part of this picture, we must recognize the pervasiveness of traumatic stress and its mental health consequences in the lives of families and children experiencing homelessness – and provide the supports and services people need for recovery and healing. This recognition in no way blames the victim, but rather identifies real needs and commands our nation to respond. Only by acknowledging the critical place of services and supports in the lives of almost all American families – and their connection to permanent housing-- can we address the issue of family homelessness adequately.






18-20 Trinity St. Hartford, CT 06106 Phone: (860) 240-0290 Fax: (860) 240-0248 Website: cga.ct.gov/coc

State of Connecticut


Commission on Children

Child Poverty in Connecticut: January 2009


Despite Connecticut’s great wealth, one in ten children lives in poverty.

Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the nation, which compounded with its highly skilled workforce, makes the cost of living very high.1 The state was one of three states in the nation with the highest median household income in 2007.2

Child poverty in Connecticut has not improved in recent years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau:

�� In 2007, 10.6% of Connecticut children under 18 (85,530 children) lived in a family with income below the Federal Poverty Level ($21.027 for a two-parent family with two children).

This data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) represents no improvement from the 2004 level (10.1%).3

�� One in four (25.1%) Connecticut children lived in a household with income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level in 2007.4

Poverty in Connecticut is concentrated in urban areas.

Children living in poverty are unevenly distributed across Connecticut’s 169 towns. While 38 towns had child poverty rates of less than 2% in the 2000 Census, seven towns had a rate above 23%, led by Hartford.5

In 2007, the state’s largest cities had extremely high child poverty rates -- Hartford (47.0%), Waterbury (31.4%), New Haven (28.7%) and Bridgeport (28.4%).6

Most low-income families are working families.

Three-quarters (76%) of Connecticut’s poor families with a parent able to work have a parent in the workforce (2003 data). Employment is not adequate to lift these working families out of poverty.7 In 2007, 19.1% of Connecticut workers did not earn enough to generate an income that meets the federal poverty threshold for a family of four, the highest rate since 1998.8


The gap between high-wage and low-wage workers is growing.

From 1989 to 2007, the ratio of Connecticut workers’ wages at the 90th percentile to the wages of workers at the 10th percentile rose from three and a half times to almost five times. This gap is 18-20 Trinity Street * Hartford, Connecticut 06106 Phone: (860) 240-0290 Fax: (860) 240-0248 website www.cga.ct.gov/coc/


the seventh highest in the country, and contributes to much wider gaps in total income and wealth.9

Minority children are more likely to live in poverty.

In 2005, Latino/Hispanic and African American children in Connecticut were seven times more likely to live in poverty than white, non-Hispanic youth.10

Poor children start from behind because they lack access to good preschools.

Children growing up poor in Connecticut perform on educational tests at a much lower level than do higher-income children. The 2007 Nation’s Report Card indicates that Connecticut has some of the largest achievement gaps in the nation between students from low- and high-income families. In reading, less than one in seven (13%) of Connecticut’s low-income fourth grade students met the proficiency standard, compared with 53% of children from higher-income families.11

An estimated 8,700 children in Connecticut’s lowest-income school districts (Priority School Districts) are in need of a quality preschool program.12

The lack of quality early education can have a significant impact on children’s readiness for school and their potential for lifelong educational and work success. In a survey of kindergarten teachers in low-income school districts in Connecticut:13

75% of children who did not attend preschool arrived at kindergarten lacking basic language and literacy skills such as being able to use complete sentences, to respond when spoken to, to identify their name in print, or to recognize the first ten letters of the alphabet; 70% of children who did not attend preschool were unable to perform basic math tasks such as recognizing numbers, counting to ten or drawing basic shapes; and 65% of the teachers identified specific health problems such as asthma, skin rashes, ringworm and lack of physical exams. Nearly one-fifth of the teachers observed children who come to school hungry, tired and unkempt.


Lost future productivity from poverty: a half-trillion-dollar loss for the nation.

The costs to the United States associated with child poverty total about $500 billion per year in foregone earnings and productivity, high crime rates and poor health associated with adults who grew up in poor households, according to a 2007 analysis by researchers from Georgetown University, the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. The nation could raise its overall consumption of goods and services and its quality of life by a half trillion dollars a year if childhood poverty were eliminated.14

Each year that a child spends in poverty results in a cost of $11,800 in lost future productivity over his or her working life. The United States labor force will lose an estimated $137 billion in future economic output for every year that more than 12 million poor children grow up to be less productive and effective workers.15

18-20 Trinity Street * Hartford, Connecticut 06106 Phone: (860) 240-0290 Fax: (860) 240-0248 website www.cga.ct.gov/coc/


Since 85,530 (10.6%) of Connecticut’s children live in poverty, the Connecticut labor force is projected to lose over $1 billion in future productive capacity for every year that this number of Connecticut children live in poverty. 16

Widespread illiteracy hurts business community

The inability of young people to read as they move into adulthood has a negative fiscal impact on businesses. In 2003, more than 240,000 adults in Connecticut – or 9 percent of those 16 and older – lacked even basic reading skills.17

Approximately 300,000 Greater Hartford area adults, or roughly 41% of the adult population, are functioning below the literacy level required to earn a living wage.18 Over $60 billion nationally is lost in productivity each year by American businesses due to employees’ lack of basic skills.19

January 15, 2009

1 Connecticut Child Poverty Council. (2005, Jan.) Initial plan. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Office of Policy and Management.

2 Bishaw, A., & Semega, J. (2008, Aug.). Income, Earnings, and Poverty Data From the 2007 American Community Survey, 4. U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Reports,

ACS-08. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Online at


3 U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey. Tables C17006 (2007) and B17006 (2007). Table

B17006 (2004). Downloaded from www.census.gov (Jan. 9, 2009); DeNavas-Walt, C., Proctor, B.D., &

Smith, J. (2008). Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007, 45. U.S.

Census Bureau., Current Population Reports, P60-235. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing

Office. Downloaded from http://www.census.gov/prod/2008pubs/p60-235.pdf (Jan. 9, 2009). The U.S.

Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) provides a larger sample size than the U.S. Census

Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) (see U.S. Census Bureau. (2007, Aug. 28). Differences

between the Income and Poverty Estimates from the American Community Survey and the Annual Social

and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing

Office, online at: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/factsheet.html.

4 U.S. Census Bureau, 2007 American Community Survey. Reported by Kids Count, Annie E. Casey

Foundation. Downloaded from

www.kidscount.org/datacenter/compare_results.jsp?i=220&yr=2007&va=&rt=3&s=a (Jan. 9, 2009).

5 Canny, P., Hall, D., & Geballe, S. (2002, Aug.). Child and family poverty in Connecticut: 1990 and

2000, 5. Data CONNECTions. New Haven: Connecticut Voices for Children.

6 Poverty, income & health insurance in Connecticut: summary of 2007 U.S. census data. (2008, Aug. 26).

New Haven: Connecticut Voices for Children. Online at


7 Hall, D.J., & Geballe, S. (2005, Sept.) The state of working Connecticut, 2005, VI-1. New Haven:

Connecticut Voices for Children.

8 Hero, J., Hall, D.J., & Geballe, S. (2008, Aug.). The state of working Connecticut, 2008: wage trends,

15. New Haven: Connecticut Voices for Children. Online at


9 Hero, J., Hall, D.J., & Geballe, S. (2008, Aug.). The state of working Connecticut, 2008: wage trends, 3.

New Haven: Connecticut Voices for Children. Online at


10 Connecticut Voices for Children. (2007, Jul.) Connecticut’s children: race and ethnicity matter, 1. New

Haven: Author. Online at http://www.ctkidslink.org/publications/econ07raceethnicity.pdf.

11 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2007.). The nation’s report

card: reading 2007. Washington, DC: Author. Online at


18-20 Trinity Street * Hartford, Connecticut 06106 Phone: (860) 240-0290 Fax: (860) 240-0248 website www.cga.ct.gov/coc/


12 Connecticut State Board of Education. (2006, Mar.) School readiness need and costs to serve all 3- and

4-year-old children in the 19 Priority School Districts, 6. Hartford: Author. Online at

http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Readiness/SR_Report.pdf (Jan. 9, 2009).

13 Connecticut Commission on Children. (2004, Apr.). Opening the kindergarten door. Executive

summary. Hartford: Author.

14 Holzer, H.J., Schanzenbach, D.W., Duncan, G.J., & Ludwig. J. (2007, Apr.). The economic costs of

poverty in the United States: subsequent effects of children growing up poor. Madison, WI: Institute for

Research on Poverty, Discussion Paper No. 1327-07.

15 Children’s Defense Fund Action Council. (2004). A nation and century defining time: where is America

going?, 36, 39. Washington, DC: Author; Sherman, A. (1997). Poverty matters, 15. Washington, DC:

Children’s Defense Fund.

16 Connecticut Commission on Children calculation based on CDF projection and U.S. Bureau of the

Census data. 2007 figures for Connecticut population and percentage of children in poverty.

17 National Center for Education Statistics, cited by Hartford Courant (2009, Jan. 9). 240,000 adults in

state said to lack basic reading skills.

18 Greater Hartford Literacy Council. (2003). Take action for literacy: the status of literacy in Greater

Hartford, 5. Hartford, CT: Author.

19 National Institute for Literacy. Cited in Greater Hartford Literacy Council, 6.




Why More Homeless Shelters Should Allow Alcohol



When John Kort died in an Anchorage homeless shelter on New Year’s Day, the news spread faster than one might’ve expected. Kort wasn’t the victim of a fascinating crime and – at least from what I can tell – he wasn’t famous. So why was the Associated Press story about his death headline-worthy for ABC, Fox News, Salon and others?

Kort’s death marked the first at a controversial new homeless shelter that opened last fall in Anchorage, Ala. It’s called Karluk Manor and it’s rare because it’s a "wet shelter" – meaning there is no policy against drinking on premises.

Chronic alcoholism is often seen as a path toward homelessness, so typical homeless shelters don’t allow drinking inside. And it’s for that reason, according to Cadillac Man ("Northern Queens’s most famous homeless person" who wrote the book Land of the Lost Souls about his journeys) that make homeless shelters a last resort for folks on the street.

"Most of us would rather take our chances outside," he told me earlier this week. "I wish there were more [homeless shelters] that would just leave you alone."

Administrators at Karluk will, in some ways, leave its tenants alone.

Karluk is part of a "housing first" movement for the homeless that debuted in 2005 at a similar project called 1811 Eastlake in Seattle. Sobriety is not a requirement there.

A 2006 New York Times profile about Eastlake summarized the arguments against it by quoting a conservative Seattle radio talk show host, John Carlson, who said it amounted to "Bunks for drunks," or "a living monument to failed social policy" that is "aiding and abetting someone's self-destruction."

Proponents for Eastlake argued the opposite. It’s easier to get sober inside rather than on the street and, according to John Meyers, director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Seattle office, who spoke to the Times, "It's a lot cheaper having them spend the night at 1811 than at the E.R. or at the drunk tank."

The arguments in Anchorage are a little different. Complaints don’t focus as much on the shelter’s approach to alcoholism as they focus on its location.

Karluk is based in a former Red Roof Inn that sits in a relatively congested part of Anchorage next to a thriving seafood company, Copper River Seafoods.

"We've had a car broken into, and property stolen from a woman who works in our accounting office," Copper River’s Vice President, Robin Richardson, told Alaska television station KTVA 11. "We've had people who have come in here who are inebriated, who we've offered to help out, offered to provide cabs, and then they've become belligerent. We've had people sleeping in our parking lot, people who are next to our cars, that kind of thing. And we're quite concerned about the safety of our employees."

An editorial in the Anchorage Daily News doesn’t directly dismiss this complaint but says it’s not what’s ultimately important. "If Karluk Manor, the motel for chronic alcoholics, means nothing more than death in a warm bed, then it's still an act of kindness and humanity,” the editorial reads.

Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, agrees with the Daily News and says one death shouldn’t turn people off the idea of a wet shelter.

"This isn’t a party house,” he told me earlier this week. "Wet in this case refers to the fact that [tenants] can consume alcohol in spite of the fact that they declare to be an alcoholic. They’re there getting served but the understanding is that they can consume alcohol in the process of recovery."

The idea is that this type of home is designed to be transitional, he says. “They can get ready when they’re ready – inside rather than on the street.”

Donovan says the alternative amounts to blackmail.

"You bar a person from a shelter as a way to pressure them to get treatment," he says. "If you’re sick, your judgment is skewed. And you’re taking advice from some punk just out of college who tells you that you need to stop drinking. Do you think that’s going to be a turning point?"

Bill Hobson, who runs 1811 Eastlake, elaborates.

"We are dealing with a unique subset of individuals here,” he says. "These are late stage, chronic alcoholics, normally 45 and older with a minimum of 15 years of street alcohol addiction. They’ve lost everything -- families, job, housing. And so they’re transacting their addiction in public spaces."

On the street, Hobson says, "these people have a 5 percent chance of survival." And furthermore, he says, when they’re out on the street, these folks end up in the emergency room, get picked up by police and often end up in jail, costing taxpayers money. He points to an April 2009 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that says the chronically alcoholic homeless people cost the city of Seattle two-thirds less housed in Eastlake than they do out on the street.

Hobson says administrators at Karluk asked him and others at Eastlake for advice before they opened the facility in Anchorage. And Hobson warned them: “people are going to die in your program. These people are medically fragile. So be prepared for it.”

Hobson says 1811 lost eight people its first year. Since then, he says between 30 and 40 have died in the program.

"But at least they’re dying on a warm bed rather than in the street," he says.

Photo credit: Bryan Snyder/Reuters





No one should experience homelessness. No one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.


National Alliance to End Homelessness

A Plan:  Not A Dream

How to End Homelessness in Ten Years

Executive Summary

Thirty years ago there was not wide-spread homelessness in America.  Tonight nearly a million people will be homeless, despite a two billion dollar a year infrastructure designed to deal with the problem.  Can homelessness be ended?


While the seeds of homelessness were planted in the 1960s and 1970s with deinstitutionalization of mentally ill people and loss of affordable housing stock, wide-spread homelessness did not emerge until the 1980s.  Several factors have affected its growth over the last two decades. Housing has become scarcer for those with little money. Earnings from employment and from benefits have not kept pace with the cost of housing for low income and poor people. Services that every family needs for support and stability have become harder for very poor people to afford or find.


In addition to these systemic causes, social changes have exacerbated the personal problems of many poor Americans, leading to them to be more vulnerable to homelessness.  These social trends have included new kinds of illegal drugs, more single parent and teen-headed households with low earning power, and thinning support networks.


These causes of homelessness must be addressed. People who are homeless must be helped, and the current system does this reasonably well for many of those who become homeless. But the homeless assistance system can neither prevent people from becoming homeless nor change the overall availability of housing, income and services that will truly end homelessness.


Mainstream social programs, on the other hand, do have the ability to prevent and end homelessness.  These are programs like welfare, health care, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, veterans assistance and so on. These programs, however, are over-subscribed.  Perversely, the very existence of the homeless assistance system encourages these mainstream systems to shift the cost and responsibility for helping the most vulnerable people to the homeless

assistance system. This dysfunctional situation is becoming more and more institutionalized.  Can nothing be done?



Ending Homelessness in Ten Years


The Board of Directors of the National Alliance to End Homelessness believes that, in fact, ending homelessness is well within the nation’s grasp. We can reverse the incentives in mainstream systems so that rather than causing homelessness, they are preventing it. And we can make the homeless assistance system more outcome-driven by tailoring solution-oriented approaches more directly to the needs of the various sub-populations of the homeless population.  In this way, homelessness can be ended within ten years.


To end homelessness in ten years,  the following four steps should be taken, simultaneously.


Plan for Outcomes


Today most American communities plan how to manage homelessness not how to end it. In fact, new data has shown that most localities could help homeless people much more effectively by changing the mix of assistance they provide. A first step in accomplishing this is to collect much better data at the local level. A second step is to create a planning process that focuses on the outcome of ending homelessness and then brings to the table not just the homeless assistance providers, but the mainstream state and local agencies and organizations whose clients are homeless.


Close the Front Door


The homeless assistance system ends homelessness for thousands of people every day, but they are quickly replaced by others.  People who become homeless are almost always clients of public systems of care and assistance. These include the mental health system, the public health system, the welfare system, and the veterans system, as well as the criminal justice and the child protective service systems (including foster care). The more effective the homeless assistance system is in caring for people, the less incentive these other systems have to deal with the most troubled people and the more incentive they have to shift the cost of serving them to the homeless assistance system.


This situation must be reversed. The flow of incentives can favor helping the people with the most complex problems.                                          As in many other social areas, investment in prevention holds the promise of saving money on expensive systems of remedial care.

Open the Back Door


Most people who become homeless enter and exit homelessness relatively quickly.  Although there is a housing shortage, they accommodate this shortage and find housing.  There is a much smaller group of people which spends more time in the system. The latter group the majority of whom are chronically homeless and chronically ill virtually lives in the shelter system and is a heavy user of other expensive public systems such as hospitals and jails.


People should be helped to exit homelessness as quickly as possible through a housing first approach. For the chronically homeless, this means permanent supportive housing (housing with services) a solution that will save money as it reduces the use of other public systems. For families and less disabled single adults it means getting people very quickly into permanent housing and linking them with services. People should not spend years in homeless systems, either in shelter or in transitional housing.


Build the Infrastructure


While the systems can be changed to prevent homelessness and shorten the experience of homelessness, ultimately people will continue to be threatened with instability until the supply of affordable housing is increased; incomes of the poor are adequate to pay for necessities such as food, shelter and health care; and disadvantaged people can receive the services they need. Attempts to change the homeless assistance system must take place with the context of larger efforts to help very poor people.




Taking these steps will change the dynamic of homelessness. While it will not stop people from losing their housing, it will alter the way in which housing crises are dealt with. While it will not end poverty, it will require that housing stability be a measure of success for those who assist poor people. The National Alliance to End Homelessness believes that these adjustments are necessary to avoid the complete institutionalization of homelessness. If implemented over time, they can lead to an end to homelessness within ten years.





I-PLUS assists chronically homeless individuals who qualify for government disability benefits to obtain and keep housing, seek treatment and become financially responsible. Following referrals from treatment providers, we act as the clients’ payee, disbursing government financial assistance to assure their

basic needs and treatment if received. The result is an optimal, positive and cost effective application of disability benefits which improve the quality of life for the individual client as well as the community at large.



Providing a systematic solution to reducing homelessness, improving quality of life, and putting money back into the community

Assisting homeless, improving quality of life

I-PLUS (Independent Positive Living Under Supervision) is an organization that assists chronically homeless individuals who qualify for government disability benefits to obtain and keep housing, seek treatment and become financially responsible.

Through victimization and financial mismanagement, disabled individuals too often fall into a cycle of homelessness, substance abuse, crime, and hospitalization.  I-PLUS offers a solution to this cycle by acting as the client’s representative payee and together with treatment providers, disburse government financial assistance to assure clients’ basic needs and treatment.  The result is a positive, cost-effective application of government disability benefits which improves the quality of life for the individual client as well as the community at large.

Financially conservative

Government disability assistance is used directly for housing, food, and other basic needs and put back into the community rather than mismanaged or extorted by others taking advantage of the disabled individuals.  By providing stable housing, the burden and cost to society through shelters and soup kitchens, courts and jails, and hospitalization can be greatly reduced, more than $35,000 annually per client*.

You can make a difference.  Please help us change the lives of chronically disabled.  Donate TODAY.

* [Footnote from Department of Veteran Affairs Study, 2004 and Department of Human Services, 1999]

All I-PLUS clients have long histories of chronic homelessness due to mental illness, drug/alcohol addictions, family dysfunction, violence, and unemployment. Clients are referred to I-PLUS by the Veterans Administration Hospital, the Lake County Court, and other local service agencies such as, PADS Crisis Services, Catholic Charities, and the Independent Center.

Each client’s monthly benefit check is deposited into their own local bank account, arranged by I-PLUS. By working with local merchants, I-PLUS arranges housing, pays rents, pays utilities, and pays other fixed costs directly to the providers on behalf of each Client.  Each client must pick up their checks, weekly, at the I-PLUS office.  When clients pick up their weekly check, they are often required to attend an AA meeting, a NA meeting, and/or receive one-on-one counseling.

During a typical month, I-PLUS manages more than $100,000 for a client load of 135.  Half of these clients are veterans.


During a typical month, more than $100,000 is managed through a local bank.  This money is used to benefit a client load of approximately 135 people. Over half of these people are veterans.

I-PLUS was founded in 1995 by a group of Lake County residents who realized that many of the chronically homeless individuals in community shelters were also receiving money through government benefits.  Without motivation to make lifestyle changes, these homeless individuals continued in a cycle of financial victimization by drug dealers and others.  As a result, these residents relied on overnight emergency shelters as housing. This cycle was never-ending.

A group of committed people decided this cycle must end.  Thus, I-PLUS was formed.  I-PLUS is set up to be more than just another provider of shelter.  In a controversial move, I-PLUS assumed financial control of some chronically, local, homeless people’s benefit checks.  The executive director then set up partnerships with case managers and treatment providers to ensure that the beneficiaries were in control of their financial resources, as well as choosing to participate in a treatment plan. Over the course of several years, I-PLUS won the respect of the community.  It evolved from eight clients, receiving disbursements directly from case managers and volunteers, to over 400 clients, receiving disbursements from I-PLUS volunteers who rely on a computerized banking system. To date, over half of I-PLUS’ clients are veterans.

I-PLUS serves Lake County, Cook County, McHenry County, and Kenosha (Wisconsin).  Offices are located on the campus of the Lovell Federal Healthcare Center (VA).  Because the Lake County homeless population is 40% veteran, I-PLUS moved to the VA campus in July 2005.  The move enabled I-PLUS to work with treatment teams to stabilize veterans when they return to the community. The I-PLUS offices are accessible to all persons who qualify.

View Our Annual Report


A VA sponsored research study found that I-PLUS is beneficial to homeless clients in the following ways: It provides residential stability, it reduces substance abuse, it improves money management, it reduces days of hospitalization, it improves health-related living habits, and it improves quality of life.

The clients’ resulting behavior changes enable them to have increased life stability.  This stability becomes habitual and permanent over time.  A client with his/her own home has increased self-confidence, an increased a sense of self-worth, and experiences higher quality living.  Higher quality living is often something a client has never before experienced.

Each year, I-PLUS saves the government and community $40,000 per client.  Without I-PLUS, this money would be spent on hospitalization, shelters, soup kitchens, courts, jails, theft, and other social costs.

To view our Annual Report click here.

Board Members and Advisors

Clettis Allen              Donna Johnson
Ralph Bishop            Michael Pierce
Brian Donovan          Joe Musto
Jon Dutcher              Bob Smith
Maggie Farley            Patricia Smuck
Mike Hazen               Robert Wilcox
David Burns             Adam Cook


Patricia Lynch, Executive Director
Pat has more than 20 years of experience working with the I-PLUS client population as executive director. Prior to this position, she served as a supervisor of emergency services for Catholic Charities. Pat co-founded the Catholic Charities Women’s Board in 1990 and Habitat for Humanity Lake County in 1992. She also co-founded the School of St. Mary’s Parents’ Club in Lake Forest and was a founding member of the Lake County Coalition for the Homeless, established in 1989. She has served on the board of the CASA Lake County and on various other civic committees.  Pat received her B.A. in sociology from Barat College in 1988.

Kim Jones, Program Director
Kim has more than 12 years of experience working with I-PLUS.  Prior to joining I-PLUS, she worked as an insurance risk manager for the City of Waukegan for 16 years. Kim received her B.A. in Spanish from the University of Pittsburgh in 1971.  She is also fluent in Spanish.

Elizabeth Miller, Bookkeeper
Liz began working for I-PLUS over five years ago.  From 1986-1996 she worked as a bookkeeper for Plasti-Flo.  Liz also has a real estate license.

Felicia Holland, Program Advocate
Felicia began working at I-PLUS in February 2011.  Prior to joining the I-PLUS staff, she spent 10 years working as a trademark administrator for Cardinal Health.  Felicia obtained her paralegal certificate from Roosevelt University in 1989.

Hope Hender Hart, Administrative Assistant
Hope is the newest member of the I-PLUS staff, joining the team in February 2012.  Prior to joining the I-PLUS staff, Hope taught English and journalism at Riverside Brookfield High School in Riverside, IL for 11 years.  She has a B.A. in English and journalism from Indiana University, Bloomington (1992), and a M.S. from IU in Secondary Education, Curriculum and Instruction (1995).


Volunteers are crucial to the success of I-PLUS.  A separate group of volunteers provides expertise in budgeting, accounting, banking, marketing, spreadsheet management, and human services.  Qualified I-PLUS volunteers meet weekly.

I-PLUS volunteer training includes an initial orientation program and ongoing supervision.  Both staff and volunteers attend appropriate workshops and in-service programs.  I-PLUS’ executive director conducts an annual performance evaluation for staff and volunteers.  She is evaluated by the I-PLUS Board of Directors on a semi-annual basis.

To volunteer,click here 




Why a Campground for Homeless People?

-written by Dignity Village

Why does Portland need a campground for homeless people? How would a camp like this benefit the community? Why should the city of Portland support such an effort?

Businesses downtown complain about homeless people urinating in their doorways. Visitors complain about homeless people panhandling them. Neighbors complain about homeless people causing them fear of crime. Parents complain that homeless people scare their children. Library patrons complain that homeless people smell bad. Neighborhood associations complain that services for homeless people attract more homeless people to their neighborhoods. Grocers complain that homeless people steal their carts. What can be done? How to relieve these problems?

A campground would provide a safe haven to homeless people. Somewhere they can sleep without interfering in the operation of business downtown. Somewhere they can be safe from the drug dealers and crime scene rather than being confused with this criminal crowd. Somewhere they can use a sanitary restroom or get clean to look for housing and employment. Somewhere they can receive mail and phone messages from landlords and employers. Somewhere they can hook-up with service providers, outreach workers, and medical assistance. Somewhere they can store their belongings, prepare healthy meals, network with others looking for work and housing. A campground would solve a host of problems from relieving health issues, providing safety and resources, to giving service providers a good central location to hook-up with those most in need of their services.


Currently it is illegal to be homeless in Portland. The basic human necessities of living have been criminalized for nineteen years now. An anti-camping ordinance makes it illegal to sleep anywhere outside, including on public property. Loitering, trespassing, exclusions, and other laws are also being used to keep homeless people on the move. Yet, homeless people have nowhere else to go. Most homeless people in Portland originated from neighborhoods here and desire to remain here, near their family, friends, and other support networks. It is neither practical nor moral to expect homeless people to give up their communities and go elsewhere. Even if they could, other communities don't want homeless people either.

The numbers of homeless people, especially youth and families, has been growing despite the so-called economic boom. Businesses, property owners, and local police have been frustrated and overwhelmed by the problems homelessness poses for them. People sleep in doorways, under bridges and overpasses, hidden on porches and in backyards. Public restrooms are few and far between and are open for only limited hours, creating sanitation problems when homeless people are forced to use alleys and doorways for relieving themselves. Lack of protection from the weather and unsanitary conditions leads to disease and infections for homeless people, many of them without healthinsurance to pay for care. Lac of access to storage facilities for clothes, medical and hygiene items and other belongings complicates the problems. A shortage of services such as shelters, medical services, showers, laundry facilities, clothing and food make daily survival for people without homes a difficult endeavor, at best.

Without stability, storage, sleeping and sanitation facilities, homeless people are unable to find and maintain employment, training, permanent housing, and the other things they require to get back on their feet. This catch-22 perpetuates the problems and is bad for everyone. To overcome the current crisis of homelessness we need to accept the premise that for every human being, we need to provide a basic minimal safety net for survival. Emergency shelter, restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, storage, phones and mail for employer and landlord contacts, food, and clothing. Without these, homeless persons cannot overcome their circumstances and get back on their feet.

This is not to say that camping should be our ideal for a bottom-line in housing. We are a wealthy nation and there is no reason why every American should not be able to have a decent, safe and warm home. But until we meet that goal, we need to stop criminalizing homeless people and start providing a place where they can legally and safely go to find--without a waiting list--without difficult obstacles or requirements--a safe and sanitary place to survive.

Some people will argue that a campground in the city of Portland is unsanitary and poses a health hazard to the greater community. The lack of sanitation facilities in public spaces is currently unsafe and is a health risk to everyone--homeless and housed alike. Being forced to defecate and urinate in public places for lack of facilities is dangerous to us all. A campground with porta-potties or 24-hour public restroom access is the solution.

Homeless people are often accused of being drunks, drug-addicts, and criminals. Anyone living in circumstances where their very lives are in immediate and constant danger--anyone dealing with survival--anyone living in a war zone -- would begin to steal, prostitute, or lie. Anyone dealing with survival in a war zone might become mentally unstable, depressed, develop serious anxieties, become violent, paranoid, or suicidal. Anyone dealing with survival in a war zone might be tempted to seek temporary solace by numbing their mind with alcohol or narcotics. Don't tell yourself lies. Living on the streets is dangerous and homeless people know it and feel it every second they are out there. Hitting the streets with nowhere to go is a violent traumatic event that just keeps on going--but unlike the energizer bunny, it's not pink, fuzzy, or cute. Despite these facts, most homeless people do not become criminals or drug or alcohol users. On the streets, integrity, dignity, privacy, and respect for one another are highly valued. People without this strength of character don't hit the streets--they commit suicide. Period.

The fact of the matter is homeless people are the constant and unprotected victims of crime. Drug dealers, sexual predators, thieves, and violent people prey on homeless people day in and day out. Violent, hate-filled punks troll skid row neighborhoods looking to beat up homeless people, set them on fire, and harass them for mere entertainment. The police seldom take these reports seriously, leaving homeless people to


fend for themselves. "Poverty pimps" offer exorbitantly overpriced flophouses for the night, check-cashing and loan shark businesses offer to relieve emergency financial problems for exorbitant fees, immoral landlords charge high application fees knowing full well they are going to turn down certain, if hopeful, renters. The police issue a constant barrage of "nuisance" tickets to homeless people in an attempt to harass homeless people to move on, using tactics to intimidate homeless people that violate the basic civil rights enjoyed by every other person in Portland. The pressure on homeless people is enormous. What crime, drug and alcohol use that is found in the homeless community should be no shock to anyone.

Tent Cities Toolkit www.tentcitiestoolkit.org 3


Income; Employment, Disability, 

Housing; Affordable, 

Obstacles; Tough Job Market, employers are less likely to hire those out of the work force for exteneded periods of time.

Health; Physical, Mental/Behavioral, Dental


Family Relations


How Many People are Homeless in Connecticut?
The statewide data from the 2007 Point-In-Time Count provides us with an updated baseline number of the homeless population in Connecticut. It is estimated that at any one point in time, close to 4,000 people are homeless in Connecticut. In 2001, over 33,000 people, including 13,000 children, experienced homelessness over the course of a year.

Most persons who are homeless do not live on the streets. Many individuals, and especially homeless families, are hidden from our view – they live doubled up in apartments or in emergency shelters or transitional housing, which do a good job of keeping them “off of the streets.”

What Causes Homelessness?
Some people experience homelessness because:
High housing costs consume too much, more than 30%, of their individual or family income.

They have a low income or they are unemployed, working at a low-wage job, or underemployed.

They or someone in their family suffer from chronic mental illness or substance abuse or have a physical disability or chronic illness such as HIV/AIDS. These individuals and families often experience long-term, chronic homelessness and are best served by supportive housing.

An unexpected event triggers a downward spiral – the loss of a job, injury or illness, the loss of a spouse. For someone with very low income, even a car breakdown, which would be just an inconvenience for some of us, could lead to the loss of a job and put a person at risk of homelessness.

What are the Solutions to Homelessness?
For long-term homelessness, we know what works – supportive housing. Supportive housing combines affordable apartments with on-site or visiting support and employment services. Supportive housing provides a permanent, independent and affordable solution to the problem of homelessness. We currently have over 3000 units across the state but we need 7000 more to reach our goal of 10,000 units to end long-term homelessness.

Affordable housing is also key to ending homelessness for families. Many families experience an episode of homelessness primarily because of financial reasons. By increasing the supply of affordable housing through new construction and rehabilitation of older housing, families with low incomes would be able to find housing units they can afford.

Other solutions to homelessness include increasing the availability of rental subsidies such as Section 8 certificates or State Rental Assistance Program vouchers; preserving the safety net of social services; and providing adequate discharge planning from prisons, hospitals and other institutions.

Source: http://www.ctreachinghome.org


Homelessness Prevention: Creating Programs that Work


National Alliance to End Homelessness

Toolkits | July 29, 2009

Files: Prevention Companion Guide (PDF | 456 KB | 16 pages) Prevention Guide (PDF | 756 KB | 60 pages)

Everything in this Guide is based upon a set of underlying principles for good homelessness prevention services. These basic principles should influence every aspect of program design and implementation.

Principle 1: Crisis resolution

Every situation that could result in homelessness is a crisis for the person experiencing it. Crisis resolution responses must include: rapid assessment and triaging, based upon urgency; an instant focus on personal safety as the first priority; de-escalation of the person’s emotional reaction; definite action steps the individual can successfully achieve; assistance with actions the individual is temporarily unable or unwilling to attempt; and returning the person to control over their own problem-solving.

Principle 2: Client choice, respect and empowerment

People in crisis may feel paralyzed by the urgency and the potentially devastating consequences of their situation. Homelessness prevention services must help people in crisis regain a sense of control and feeling of empowerment to actively overcome obstacles. A constant emphasis on the client’s goals, choices, and preferences, an unwavering respect for their strengths, and reinforcement of progress are essential for empowerment. This does not mean clients are protected from the natural consequences of their actions.

Principle 3: Provide the minimum assistance necessary for the shortest time possible

Respect includes “letting go” as soon as the person has the resources, knowledge and tools to continue their lives--however they choose to live them. Providing “just enough” to prevent homelessness enables a program to help far more people in crisis. Often this means ensuring resources are used to help persons at-risk of losing housing of any kind—persons who would otherwise end up on the street or in an emergency shelter—before using resources to provide assistance for other needs. Providing non-essential assistance to a program client will cost someone else in the community their housing.

Principle 4: Maximize community resources

Mainstream assistance programs are intended to be the backbone of every community. Creating duplicate services for a sub-population such as people at risk of homelessness allows mainstream agencies to continue to bypass or ineffectively serve people who have a right to better quality and access. Duplication also wastes valuable, limited resources that could be spent to keep more households from becoming homeless.

Principle 5: The right resources to the right people at the right time

The earlier a program intervenes in a housing crisis, the lower the cost. The outcomes may look impressive, but research shows that most people who receive prevention assistance would not have become homeless even without assistance. The later the intervention, the more costly and the lower the success rate. But at the latest stages of an individual’s housing crisis, it is virtually certain she or he would have become homeless without assistance. Good prevention programs strive to target people who have the highest risk of becoming homeless but who also have a good chance of remaining housed if they receive assistance.



The Greater Hartford Alliance to Prevent and End Homelessness

The Greater Hartford Regional Alliance on Housing and Homelessness is leading a regional effort to eliminate chronic homelessness and homelessness for veterans within five years and to end homelessness for families, youth, and children within ten years, and setting a path to end all forms of homelessness. The Alliance coordinates the strategies of advocacy, prevention, housing, employment, and services to ensure that episodes of homelessness are rare and of short duration and that all citizens within the region have access to safe, affordable housing. The Alliance includes civic, religious, political, business, and not-for-profit leaders, in addition to other stakeholders. The Region includes Hartford, Andover, Avon, Bloomfield, Bolton, Canton, East Granby, East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington, Enfield, Farmington, Glastonbury, Granby, Hebron, Manchester, Marlborough, Newington, Rocky Hill, Simsbury, Somers, South Windsor, Stafford, Suffield, Tolland, Vernon, West Hartford, Wethersfield, Windsor, and Windsor Locks.



Opening Doors Greater Hartford:

A Community Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness


View the Full Plan

View the Plan by Section:


The Greater Hartford Alliance to Prevent and End Homelessness

The Updated Plan to End Homelessness:

  1. Increase Leadership, Collaboration, and Civic Engagement
  2. Increase Access to Stable Affordable and Supportive Housing
  3. Increase Economic Security
  4. Increase Health and Housing Stability
  5. Retooling the Homeless Crisis Response System
  6. Performance Measurement

The State of Housing and Homelessness in the Greater Hartford Region

Appendix A: Tables and Figures

Appendix B: Glossary of Common Definitions


Other Plans:

Greater Hartford Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness

Greater Hartford Implementation Plan

Opening Doors Federal Plan to End Homelessness

CT Five Year Plan to End Veteran Homelessness

Opening Doors-Connecticut: Framework for Preventing and Ending Homelessness




The Alliance Steering Committee:

The Steering Committee will develop, coordinate, and administer resources to end homelessness and increase the stock of available and affordable housing in the Greater Hartford Region. The steering committee will also be charged with leadership and collaboration for all of the committees. The Steering Committee shall be composed of Journey Home Staff, members of its 5 committees, and other regional representatives. Potential members will be representatives from local shelter and housing agencies, The United Way, the Metro Hartford Alliance, the Capitol Workforce Partners, the City of Hartford, the Capitol Region Council of Governments, CCEH, HUD local office, Capitol Region Council of Churches, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Path East River group, Hartford Public Library, local healthcare institutions, and a variety of other local, regional and statewide agencies.


Journey Home Staff:

Journey Home staff will serve as catalysts and conveners for the actions of the Greater Hartford Alliance to Prevent and End Homelessness. They will organize steering committee meetings, and facilitate the dispersal of information to Alliance members. They will serve as a resource for all committee chairs and will initiate research into best practices from around the nation.


Balance of State:

The Connecticut Balance of State CoC (BOS)is a coordinated, comprehensive, and strategic organizational structure mandated by HUD to receive homeless assistance funding. Within the CoC, community service providers, public housing authorities, non-profit organizations, and local and state governments form a consortium to address local homelessness and housing issues. The BOS covers municipalities in Connecticut that are not designated as entitlement areas. Each year, the CT Balance of State Continuum of Care accepts applications for new supportive housing projects to be funded through the 2011 HUD McKinney Vento Competition. The Steering Committee established requirements and priorities for new applications.



This is a group of social service directors and outreach, shelter, and housing providers that are located in Vernon, East Hartford, and Manchester. There is frequent transience between shelter stayers in Hartford and in these three towns, and regional efforts on homelessness should include their voices and representation. The group works to share information, pool resources, and work together to end homelessness in their communities.


Manchester Continuum of Care (CoC):

In acknowledgement of the need for supportive housing and the interest in applying for HUD homeless assistance funds, the Manchester Planning Department formed a working group with representatives from various service providers and agencies in town to develop a Continuum of Care Plan in September of 2000. The Continuum of Care group meets monthly to discuss issues relevant to individuals and families who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. This group consists of representatives from the Town of Manchester Planning and Human Services Departments, Head Start, the Veterans’ Administration, the local shelter, and other various local community organizations and health clinics. This Continuum is a valuable forum in which to exchange ideas and resources and to discuss problems and develop solutions.

The Manchester Continuum of Care provides a forum for housing and service providers to collaborate on efforts to assist special needs populations, with a primary focus on the homeless. CoC members are able to share information on new funding resources and news of events and activities catered to, or in support of, the member organization’s clientele.

Hartford Continuum of Care (CoC) Advisory Board:

The advisory board serves as the primary decision making group for the Hartford Continuum of Care. The primary responsibility of this group is to manage the overall planning effort for the entire CoC, including but not limited to: setting agendas for full CoC meetings, project monitoring, determining project priorities, providing final approval for the CoC application submission. This body is also responsible for the implementation of the CoC’s HMIS (Homeless Management Information System), either through direct oversight or through the designation of an HMIS implementation agency. This group may be the CoC Lead Agency or may authorize another entity to be the CoC Lead Agency under its direction. Members are selected in an open and democratic process by the CoC membership. All shelters, Transitional and Permanent Supportive Housing programs are represented.


Hartford Continuum of Care (CoC):

Is a coordinated, comprehensive, and strategic collaborative of housing and serviced providers mandated by HUD to receive homeless assistance funding for the City of Hartford. This entity is responsible for the submission of the annual funding application to the Department of Housing and Urban. The main goals of the CoC are to promote community wide commitment to ending homelessness, identifying resources to quickly re-house homeless households, help households to access mainstream services and optimize self-sufficiency of their clients.


Affordable and Supportive Housing Committee:

This committee will work to find ways to increase access to affordable and supportive housing throughout the Greater Hartford region. This will be achieved through multiple methods including development, conversion, set-asides, rehabilitation and preservation. Members might include local housing providers, developers, landlords, management companies, town planers or planning and zoning commissioners, housing authority representatives and financing institutions.


Health and Housing Stability Committee:

This committee will work to improve the integration of healthcare and housing services into a comprehensive and patient/client centered model. Ultimate goals include improving the health status of people experiencing homelessness and their long term housing stability. They will work from a "housing as healthcare" framework and work to utilize already existing systems and mainstream resources to improve the quality and coordination of services received by clients. This committee will also advise and organize the monthly case managers meetings which serve to keep case managers abreast of services available throughout the region to improve our ability to serve clients and prevent duplication of services, as well as to gather information from those engaged with the clients on a daily basis. Members of this committee might include local shelter and housing agencies, primary, behavioral and mental health care providers, health navigators, a representative from the Administrative Service Organizations, Department of Social Services, Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and others.


Economic Security Committee:

This committee will work on increasing the income of the homeless, low-income, very low-income and extremely low-income population in the region. They will work to increase both access to meaningful employment and mainstream financial resources including public assistance, health insurance, social security, food stamps and more. Members of this committee might include local employers, Workforce Solutions Collaborative, education and training institutions, healthcare providers, representatives from the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, Department of Social Services, Disability Determination Services and others.


Retooling the Homeless Crisis System:

This committee will work to transform the currently disjointed homeless crisis response system into a more fluid, consumer-friendly coordinated response that ensures that all who are facing a housing crisis have an immediate decent, safe place to stay and can quickly and easily access permanent housing solutions. Projects that this committee will work to implement include a Universal Housing Application, a Coordinated Entry System, data sharing agreements, a prevention and diversion system, performance measures and ways to collect the data, reduced discharge from institutions to homelessness and general improvements in collaboration and communication across agencies and silos. Members of this committee might include local shelter and housing providers, municipal social service directors, Department of Education homeless liaisons, 2-1-1, the Department of Corrections, rehabilitation providers, healthcare institutions, Department of Children and Families and others.


Consumer Advisory Committee:

This committee will consist of individuals who have or who are experiencing homelessness. They will advise Journey Home staff and the Greater Hartford Alliance from their lived experience. They will also work to advocate for solutions to homelessness and system’s change by meeting with policy makers and raising awareness about the realities of homelessness throughout the Greater Hartford Region.

The Updated Plan to End Homelessness

The New Goals:

1. Finish the job of ending chronic homelessness in 5 years

2. Prevent and end homelessness among Veterans in 5 years

3. Prevent and end homelessness for families, youth and children in 10 years

4. Set a path to ending all types of homelessness




-"Remarks of Philip Mangano to the US Conference of Mayors – January 23, 2003

!"Developing a Plan to End Homelessness: Why Now?

!"The Mayor’s Checklist: Step-by-Step Process for Planning to End


!"Fact Sheet on Homelessness

!"The Ten Essentials: What Your City Needs to Do to End Homelessness

!"Creating a Plan to End Homelessness

Examples: Chicago, IL

Indianapolis, IN


!"Creating a Data System to Help You End Homelessness

Examples: Philadelphia, PA

Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance

Wisconsin HMIS

Spokane, WA HMIS


!"Establishing Emergency Prevention Programs

Examples: Hennepin County Homelessness Prevention Program (MN)

The Philadelphia Housing Support Center (PA)

Project Safe (Everett, WA)


!"Making Systems Changes that Prevent Homelessness

Examples: Connecticut Department of Children and Families Housing


Illinois Department of Children and Families Youth

Housing Assistance Program

Lighthouse Youth Services Housing Continuum (Cincinnati,


Minnesota Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance


New Mexico Adolescent Transition Groups


!"Outreach to Homeless People on the Streets

Examples: Pathways to Housing (NY, NY)

Project H.O.M.E. (Philadelphia, PA)


!"Shortening the Time People Spend Homeless

Examples: Getting Housed, Staying Housed (Chicago, IL)

Community Shelter Board (Columbus, OH)


!"Re-Housing People Rapidly so that They Do Not Become Homeless

Examples: Beyond Shelter (Los Angeles, CA)

Philadelphia Housing Support Center (PA)

HomeStart (Boston, MA)

Rapid Exit (Hennepin County, MN)


!"Putting Together Treatment and Other Services for Homeless People

Examples: Pathways to Housing (NY, NY)

Anishinabe Wakiagun (Minneapolis, MN)

Project H.O.M.E. (Philadelphia, PA)

Beyond Shelter (Los Angeles, CA)

Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota

Rapid Exit Program (Hennepin County, MN)


!"Creating an Adequate Supply of Permanent Affordable Housing

Examples: Project H.O.M.E.

Anishinabe Wakiagun (Minneapolis, MN)

Pathways to Housing (NY, NY)

Seattle Housing Levy (WA)

Los Angeles Affordable Housing Trust Fund (CA)

Inclusionary Zoning (Montgomery Co., MD)


!"Ensuring that Homeless People Have Incomes to Pay for Housing

Examples: Maryland SSI Outreach Project


Impact Employment Services (Boston, MA)

Larkin Street Youth Services’ HIRE UP Program (San

Francisco, CA)

!"Housing First: A New Approach to End Homelessness for Families

!"A Plan: Not A Dream – How To End Homelessness In Ten Years

!"Leadership to End Homelessness Audio Conference Series

!"Want to Talk to Someone About Planning to End Homelessness?

docs/Toolkit for Ending Homelessness.pdf


Homelessness Prevention: Creating Programs that Work


National Alliance to End Homelessness

Toolkits | July 29, 2009

Files: Prevention Companion Guide (PDF | 456 KB | 16 pages) Prevention Guide (PDF | 756 KB | 60 pages)

Everything in this Guide is based upon a set of underlying principles for good homelessness prevention services. These basic principles should influence every aspect of program design and implementation.

Principle 1: Crisis resolution

Every situation that could result in homelessness is a crisis for the person experiencing it. Crisis resolution responses must include: rapid assessment and triaging, based upon urgency; an instant focus on personal safety as the first priority; de-escalation of the person’s emotional reaction; definite action steps the individual can successfully achieve; assistance with actions the individual is temporarily unable or unwilling to attempt; and returning the person to control over their own problem-solving.

Principle 2: Client choice, respect and empowerment

People in crisis may feel paralyzed by the urgency and the potentially devastating consequences of their situation. Homelessness prevention services must help people in crisis regain a sense of control and feeling of empowerment to actively overcome obstacles. A constant emphasis on the client’s goals, choices, and preferences, an unwavering respect for their strengths, and reinforcement of progress are essential for empowerment. This does not mean clients are protected from the natural consequences of their actions.

Principle 3: Provide the minimum assistance necessary for the shortest time possible

Respect includes “letting go” as soon as the person has the resources, knowledge and tools to continue their lives--however they choose to live them. Providing “just enough” to prevent homelessness enables a program to help far more people in crisis. Often this means ensuring resources are used to help persons at-risk of losing housing of any kind—persons who would otherwise end up on the street or in an emergency shelter—before using resources to provide assistance for other needs. Providing non-essential assistance to a program client will cost someone else in the community their housing.

Principle 4: Maximize community resources

Mainstream assistance programs are intended to be the backbone of every community. Creating duplicate services for a sub-population such as people at risk of homelessness allows mainstream agencies to continue to bypass or ineffectively serve people who have a right to better quality and access. Duplication also wastes valuable, limited resources that could be spent to keep more households from becoming homeless.

Principle 5: The right resources to the right people at the right time

The earlier a program intervenes in a housing crisis, the lower the cost. The outcomes may look impressive, but research shows that most people who receive prevention assistance would not have become homeless even without assistance. The later the intervention, the more costly and the lower the success rate. But at the latest stages of an individual’s housing crisis, it is virtually certain she or he would have become homeless without assistance. Good prevention programs strive to target people who have the highest risk of becoming homeless but who also have a good chance of remaining housed if they receive assistance.



100,000 Homes: Housing the homeless saves money?


Giving apartments to the chronically homeless can save taxpayer dollars, advocates say

The following is a script from "100,000 Homes" which aired on Feb. 9, 2014. Anderson Cooper is the correspondent. Andy Court, producer.

Giving apartments to homeless people who've been on the streets for years before they've received treatment for drug or alcohol problems or mental illness may not sound like a wise idea. But that's what's being done in cities across America in an approach that targets those who've been homeless the longest and are believed to be at greatest risk of dying, especially with all of this cold weather.

They're people who once might have been viewed as unreachable.  But cities and counties affiliated with a movement known as the 100,000 Homes Campaign have so far managed to get 80,000 of them off the streets. Local governments and non-profit groups do most of the work. The money comes mostly from existing federal programs and private donations, and there's evidence that this approach saves taxpayers money. 


If it sounds too good to be true, then take a look at what's been happening in Nashville, one of the latest cities to join the 100,000 Homes Campaign.


Ingrid McIntyre: You awake, buddy?  [Ingrid knocks on door]

Ingrid McIntyre: Robert?

In a storage facility on the outskirts of Nashville, outreach worker Ingrid McIntyre introduced us to Robert McMurtry.

Ingrid McIntyre:  Hey good morning. I want to introduce you to my friend Anderson.

Anderson Cooper: Hey I’m Anderson, how are you?

She’d come to ask him some questions about his health.

Ingrid McIntyre: How many times have you been to the Emergency Room in the past three months?

Robert McMurtry: Uh, twice.

Robert told Ingrid he had a lot of medical problems: HIV, hepatitis C, and throat cancer. He was getting treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, but living in this storage locker without a toilet or running water. He bathed in a stream by the side of the road. He said he’d been homeless for three years.

Anderson Cooper:  How old are you?

Robert McMurtry: I'm 48.

Anderson Cooper: Forty-eight? I'm 46, so we're two years apart.

Robert McMurtry: Uh-huh.

Anderson Cooper: It's nice to see someone else with gray hair.

 He said he used to work in the construction business but fell on hard times after he lost his job and became ill. A friend took pity on him and allowed him to stay in this storage locker for the past three months.


Robert McMurtry: I never imagined I'd ever be homeless, 'cause I had-- I really worked really hard my whole life and it was just devastating really when it happened because I never imagined that I would be in this condition.

Ingrid McIntyre runs a nonprofit called Open Table Nashville, that’s been working with the 100,000 Homes Campaign to survey the city’s homeless – and identify those at greatest medical risk.

"I never imagined I'd ever be homeless, 'cause I had-- I really worked really hard my whole life and it was just devastating really when it happened because I never imagined that I would be in this condition."

Anderson Cooper: Do you think he’s at high risk?

Ingrid McIntyre: I mean he’s one of the most vulnerable people that I know.

Three days after interviewing Robert, she returned with an offer that was hard to believe.

Ingrid McIntyre: If you want to, I have an apartment for you tomorrow.

Robert McMurtry: Really?

Ingrid McIntyre: Do you want it?

Robert McMurtry: Yes. I do, really.

Ingrid McIntyre: Good.

The following day….

Robert McMurtry: Wow man….

Robert moved in to his very own apartment.

Robert McMurtry: This is great. 


Robert McMurtry
CBS News
 It’s in a private building in downtown Nashville. He wouldn’t have to bathe in that stream anymore. The apartment has one bathroom, one bedroom, and access to this rooftop pool.


Until fairly recently someone like Robert would have to jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops, and go through a treatment or job training program before getting permanent housing. The 100,000 Homes Campaign advocates using an approach first developed in New York in which the homeless are given housing first.

Becky Kanis: What we're really aiming for in this movement is that person that's been on the streets, many cases for decades— who you walk past and you're like, "Oh, I can't even imagine this person being able to be in housing."

Anderson Cooper: The hardcore homeless.

Becky Kanis: The hardest core of the hardest core— who also happen to be at the highest risk for dying on the streets.

Becky Kanis works for a group called Community Solutions, which created the 100,000 Homes Campaign.  She says most of the 600,000 people who are homeless in the United States on any given night are on the streets for relatively short periods of time, usually less than a month. But it’s the chronic cases, people homeless for more than a year, who Kanis says are most in need of help.

Becky Kanis: They're out of friends who will let them sleep on their couch. They're out of friends who will help them get a job. They've burned the bridges of the friends or they just didn't have 'em in the first place.

More than 60 percent of the chronically homeless have drug or alcohol addictions.  Thirty percent suffer from severe mental illness. Kanis says many of these people have such serious medical problems, it costs taxpayers more to leave them on the street.

Anderson Cooper: How is it costing more?

Becky Kanis: The inability to tend to your basic healthcare needs, results in people on the streets ending up in emergency rooms and ending up in in-patient hospitalizations.  And one night in the hospital is a whole month's rent on most places.

Anderson Cooper: So you're saying it's more expensive to allow a chronically homeless person to live on the streets than it is to actually subsidize an apartment for them?

Becky Kanis: Yes, we are paying more as taxpayers to walk past that person on the street and do nothing than we would be paying to just give them an apartment.

Becky Kanis began working for the 100,000 Homes Campaign after a career in the military.  She’s a West Point graduate and former Army officer who worked with the Special Operations Command. 

Anderson Cooper: Do you think having a military background helps?

Becky Kanis: I absolutely think it does. It's boots on the ground intelligence that I think is one of the defining factors.

"Yes, we are paying more as taxpayers to walk past that person on the street and do nothing than we would be paying to just give them an apartment."

To get that boots on the ground intelligence the 100,000 Homes Campaign encourages teams of volunteers and outreach workers to spend three nights looking for and interviewing the homeless. In late May, we joined the teams in Nashville as they headed out at three in the morning, searching  in small patches of woods under highway over-passes and in caves where the homeless camp.

Will: Hey, sorry to wake you.  My name’s Will.

Those who agreed to answer a series of survey questions would get a free bus pass in return.

Will: How many times have you been to the Emergency Room in the past three months?

Homeless man: About five times.

The questions are mainly about their health …

Volunteer : HIV or AIDS?  

Volunteer:  Liver disease? Cirrhosis?

Volunteer:  History of stroke or heat exhaustion?

The information is used to decide who gets apartments first by giving priority to those at greatest risk of dying on the streets. And the risk is very real.

Homeless man singing: Rocky top you will always be….home to me.

On the steps of this church, a man froze to death last year, one of 52 homeless people who died in the city.‎

Not everything the homeless told the survey teams was accurate. We checked and found some discrepancies.  But we were also surprised by the candor of some of the people we met. Ernest Thomas who has a prosthetic leg, says he once hoped to work in a pharmacy, but ruined his job prospects by getting involved with drugs and crime. He was on parole when we spoke.


Ernest Thomas, volunteer and Anderson Cooper
CBS News
 Ernest Thomas: Look at me, man, I'm 39 years old. And I ain't got nothing.  You know I'm sayin'? I don’t even call my kids. You know, when I do call 'em, they be, like, "Dad how you doin'?" I gotta lie and fantasize. Oh, man, I'm straight.


Anderson Cooper: So how do you think you-- you ended up on the street?

Ernest Thomas: Honest with you, man, I can't tell you. I really don’t know. I messed up. Somewhere, I messed up. Yeah.

Will Connelly is director of the city’s Homelessness Commission. He is the person who decided Nashville should adopt the 100,000 Homes Campaign’s approach.  He’d already lined up a number of apartments for the people identified by the survey.

Anderson Cooper: And these are fully furnished apartments, ready to go that these people can just move into?

Will Connelly: Yeah. Yeah. Permanent housing, no strings attached really. As long as they abide by that lease agreement, it's-- it's theirs.

The apartments are paid for mostly by the federal government which gives rental assistance subsidies for veterans and people with low income. The homeless are expected to contribute 30 percent of whatever income they get from things like part time work, social security, or disability.

Some apartments – like Robert McMurtry’s – were provided by civic-minded landlords willing to accept very little rent. Kirby Davis donated one percent of his units and has encouraged other building owners to do the same.

Anderson Cooper: And what's the push back you're getting?

Kirby Davis: That-- they might harass my other residents, what are my other residents gonna think? What kinda liability do we have?

Anderson Cooper: And-- and what do you say to that?

Kirby Davis: None of 'em got to where they are not taking risk. So how about taking a risk for somebody else?

Kirby Davis meeting with landlords: Why don’t we go around the room and introduce ourselves?

No new tax dollars were required for Nashville’s campaign to house the chronically homeless. A lot was achieved by getting people who don’t normally work together – such as outreach workers and private landlords -- to focus on the city’s most desperate residents.

Landlord: What I’ll do is try two units and we’ll start with that and give it a try.

To determine who should get apartments first, the homeless who were surveyed got ranked based on their medical risk factors.  Robert McMurtry finished high on the list, but there were some in even worse shape.

Anderson Cooper:  So who are some of the people you've identified?

Will Connelly: The most vulnerable is-- his name's Frank.


Frank Clements
CBS News
 Frank is Frank Clements, who spent more than 30 years in prison for robbery and other crimes.  For him and a friend, home was now this park bench.


Ingrid McIntyre: Where are you guys staying right now?

Frank Clements: Right here.

Ingrid McIntyre: Right here?

Jerry: Right here.  

Ingrid McIntyre: Yeah

There was a bottle of mouthwash by his side, which is what alcoholics sometimes drink when they can’t afford liquor.  Frank was 66 years old and said he’d been treated for two types of cancer, pneumonia, and heart disease.

Ingrid McIntyre: How many times have you been to the emergency room in the past three months?

Frank Clements: About three times.

Four days after he answered those questions, he was walking into his new apartment…

Outreach worker: This is your new home!

Frank Clements:  All right…My heart is full of gratitude. And you know, it’s awesome.  I mean you don’t see people like this that help people out you know.

To try and ensure the homeless don’t end up back on the streets, social workers check in on them regularly.

Ashley: Do you mind if I have a seat?

Frank Clements: Well of course you can.

Frank Clements needed more help than most. The morning after he got an apartment, we found him finishing off a bottle of whiskey.

Frank Clements: I ain’t no angel.  I’m a damn drunk.

In the weeks that followed, social workers tried to help Frank get treatment, they even drove him to appointments. He’d get sober for a while, then start drinking again, then be filled with remorse.  He was so disruptive when drunk he had to be moved out of two different apartments. Some critics of the 100,000 Homes Campaign question whether scarce housing resources would be better spent on homeless kids or working-poor families rather than somebody like Frank.

Anderson Cooper: Is it fair to give somebody an apartment who's made bad choices and is being irresponsible?

Becky Kanis: I don't think fairness is the right way to look at it. What I would prefer to look at it is what's good for everybody. So having somebody on the streets, fair or not fair, is costing us as a society as taxpayers more than it would cost to have them in housing.

Anderson Cooper: It does seem like you're rewarding somebody though, who's-- you know, drinking or doing drugs or just being irresponsible.

Becky Kanis: I see it as giving them a second chance. And most people, given that second chance, do something about those behaviors.

So far, Robert McMurtry has made the most of his second chance. He made friends in his building, and three months after he got his own apartment, we were amazed to see him jogging in a nearby park. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that when homeless people in Philadelphia were given housing and support, more than 85 percent were still in housing two years later…and were unlikely to become homeless again.

Ingrid McIntyre: How’s it going? Everything went great this morning? I’m so glad, you look awesome.

Man playing guitar at luncheon:… 2,3,4  everywhere that I go…

In September, homeless advocates in Nashville held a luncheon for some of the people they had helped. In 100 days, they had gotten nearly 200 people into homes, and all but a handful were still in their apartments. But there weren’t enough apartments for everyone. Ernest Thomas didn’t get one. He ended up back in prison on a parole violation and then homeless once again.

By this summer, Nashville and other communities across the country that have joined the 100,000 Homes Campaign expect to reach their goal of getting 100,000 people off the streets. That won’t completely solve the problem, but Becky Kanis says it will prove that it can be solved, and that no one is unreachable.

Becky Kanis: We have an amazing collection now of before pictures and after pictures that just captures the transformation that's possible once someone's in housing. There is something that's really dehumanizing about living on the streets in so many ways. And then, really, in a matter of days, from having housing, the physical transformation is almost immediate. And they're unrecognizable from their former selves. And I don't think that there's anybody, once they see that, that would-- say, "Well, let's put them back on the streets again.”






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