Worcester’s Homeless Plan

posted by Ron Madnick on April 1st, 2006

Editor’s note: The following was printed as an op-ed in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. It didn’t appear on their website when originally printed, possibly because they were redesigning the site. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission and is copyright 2006 Ronal Madnick.

In 2000, the City Manager created the Commission on Homelessness with a dual charge to improve services and housing for the homeless and to relocate the PIP Shelter. In August of 2000 the Commission issued its five year plan titled “Housing the Single Adult Homeless: the Worcester Plan. ”

On June 23, 2004 a plan to end chronic homelessness in Worcester developed by the Committee to End Chronic Homelessness in 10 Years was adopted by the City Manager’s Commission on Homelessness.

The Minority Report, developed by the City Manager’s Commission on Homelessness, June 19, 2004 points out that chronically homeless persons must be assisted but also points out that others who also need assistance must be considered. “Individuals who are living with friends or relatives in overcrowded conditions , prisoners who are released to the street, foster children who reach the age of 18 when they are no longer eligible for foster care, the battered spouse who leaves an abusive home, the indivudal who is laid off/fired from employment and can no longer afford housing, the tenant at will who loses housing because the building was sold, the tenant at will whose rent increase forces them to the street” must also be considered.

In 2006 the City Manager announced a goal to end homelessness within five years. The Manager is clearly moving in the right direction but five years is too long. There is no reason why the city cannot carry out a program within a year or two.

Enough studies. Let’s get to work.

The City Manager is correct that we need social services, housing, education, employment, primary health care, government, and supportive programs and organizations working together.

Money is needed from the city, the state, the federal government, the religious community, business, civic leaders, non profit organizations, housing developers, Worcester citizens and Worcester foundations.

The first goal should be to place homeless people in a home after which we can try to address the underlying problem(s) that led to homelessness in the first place. Since homeless people lack transportation, the housing must be near public transportation, markets, and service agencies.

Treating homeless people is a sound investment. According to a survey done by the Worcester County Continuum of Care on May 26 2004, there are 428 homeless individuals. 266 are in emergency shelters, 145 are in transitional housing, and 17 are unsheltered. Of the homeless people with children, there are 415. 224 are in emergency shelter, 191 are in transitional shelter, and 0 are unsheltered.

The goal should be to move people from transitional housing to permanent housing. There should be a “continuum of care”. There should be private baths, shared cooking facilities, on site case managers, social workers, one-on-one substance use, mental health, life skills, family counseling, medical and mental illness treatment, and access to food and clothing.

Supportive housing is a way to save scare government funds, In Boston supportive housing is estimated to costs $33/day;jail $92/day; prison $117/day; shelters $140/day; mental health 541/day; hospital $1,770/day.

The first goal is to develop a drop-in, multi-service center for the homeless to serve as an entry point one-stop service center for the homeless. The second goal should be to provide housing as quickly as possible for an individual or family in a housing crisis. Any needed services and support should be are made available once the family or person is in their own place

Homeless people also need jobs. In most recent nationwide studies, the number one request of homeless people was for a job.

Worcester has many successful non profit organizations providing services for the chronic homeless population such as Community Healthlink, People in Peril. The Southern Middlesex Opportunity Council, Massachusetts Veterans, Abby’s House, Jeremiah’s Hospice, Henry Lee Willis Center, Y.O.U., Inc., and Genesis Club. We can build upon their work and solve the problem of chronic homelessness.

As a city we have an obligation to provide housing as a basic human need that society should provide for all people.

Published in: General | on April 1st, 2006 | Permanent Link to “Worcester’s Homeless Plan” | Comments Off on Worcester’s Homeless Plan

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