Can We End Homelessness? continued

There were a lot of people at the End Homelessness Roundtable this morning, enough to make a serious effort to organize more effective ways to provide appropriate levels of housing and services for those in need. One point that stuck with me was that our inability to provide comprehensive services for the chronically homeless in a coherent fashion is very expensive, probably costly enough to pay for a good program if we could focus the resources appropriately. A big “if”, especially given the direction of the Bush budget on such matters (it is fitting, at last, that they have a Sec'y of State whose name adorns an oil tanker. But I digress.)

I was not able to stay to the end and have not heard how things got wrapped up or what the next steps are to be. How about a report from some who attended the whole event and some comments.

p.s. despite expectations to the contrary, I do believe I saw a Carrboro Alderman skulking about.



To give credit where credit it due, the Bush administration has been an active participant in the push to end chronic homelessness.

I read a wonderful article about the guy who leads this program for the administration but I can't remember where I read it. I also don't remember if he was appointed to HUD or through the faith-based initiatives. Whichever, this concept of continuum of care sounds great and I'm happy to hear that it may be implemented in Chapel Hill-Carrboro.

Yesterday's event was energizing and productive. The DTH says we had 100 people, and I believe it. The Herald, the N&O, and the DTH all covered it.

I think what the combination of speakers and facilitated conversations successfully did was to encourage us all to see that a homeless shelter alone, as important as that is, is far from enough. We have to think creatively and structurally about how to spend public resources more wisely (Mark Chilton's quote in one of the stories about the price of an apartment subsidy v. the price of a prison cell is very apt). We have to work harder on affordable housing and a whole continuum of housing supports and options. (Melanie, we did not get into enough detail to talk about boardinghouses, but we did clearly put housing on the table.) And more.

It is very good that the local "Continuum of Care" group is getting back into gear. Their goals include identifying and closing "gaps in the housing and services available" for the homeless and strategizing "comprehensive and long-term solutions." They will be working with the Inter-Faith Council's Community Initiative to End Homelessness.

Dan asked what we did at the end. Consistent with the realization that the solution has to come from many levels, even down to the individual level, after we returned from facilitated groups we filled out sheets on which we promised to do at least one specific thing to help. There was general enthusiasm for additional meetings to further communicate the issues and engage with the community, perhaps focusing on one or two topics at a time. There did seem way too much to talk about, but for a first gathering, I think that was probably OK.

We saw a very moving film that has just been made of homelessness in Orange County. It includes some powerful interviews with the homeless here in our midst. I recommend it as a resource to any of you if you have groups of people who would be interested in seeing it.

We certainly want to find opportunites to have live conversations with homeless people. As Ken Maness, who spoke to us of his experience with the 10-year plan in Raleigh, said more than once, it's really important to have those conversations.

Raleigh's plan is part of the official federal 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness. I hope that in Chapel Hill we can sustain enough of this current momentum to be able to sign on to that plan.

Terri, the man you may be thinking about is Philip Mangano, head of the Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Just wanted to provide some clarification:

The Orange County Continuum of Care serves two main purposes. It is primarily a year-round planning process that results in strategic plans for addressing homelessness. The Continuum of Care also annually applies for HUD funding for homeless targeted funding. OPC and the Chrysalis Foundation have been able to provide permanent housing to nearly 40 homeless individuals and families through the Continuum of Care. The Continuum of Care in Orange County has not really been active since 2002. OPC, our local mental health center, recently hired a staff person (me!) to chair the Continuum, which is evidence of OPC's commitment to addressing homelessness, particularly in the wake of mental health reform.

A planning committee formed over the past months, between the Continuum of Care and the IFC, to discuss one of the main recommendations that resulted from the Community Planning Process between the Town of Chapel Hill and the IFC. The specific recommendation was for IFC to develop a Community Involvement Committee, which included a specific structure for involving a key set of constituencies.

As we met, it became clear that the Community Involvement Committee and the Continuum of Care had many of the same goals and would be reaching out to many of the same community/constituency groups. At that point, we decided to merge our efforts so that both of our groups would be more effective. One major problem in relation to housing and homelessness in this area, is the fragmentation of services and housing options. We realized that having two separate groups would further this fragmentation and make things more confusing for our community.

So, we are still in the process of fully developing this merger but know that we will be called the Community Initiative to End Homelessness. Our mission is to prevent and end homelessness and SOME of our drafted goals include:
1. fostering community dialogue about the causes of and solutions to homelessness,
2. encourage and support those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to advocate for themselves,
3. enable more homeless individuals and families to access safe shelter, with an emphasis on permanent, affordable housing,
4. identify and secure public and private funding for housing and services for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless,
5. develop a collaborative, balanced system of housing and services focusing on the particular needs of the homeless in Orange County (this includes long-term employment, living wages, education and training, counseling, support for victims of domestic violence, quality health care, and quality mental health care and substance abuse services).

This was difficult to relay at the Homelessness Roundtable Discussion because the Continuum of Care and the IFC's Community Involvement Committee is still in the process of planning. We hope to have our goals, structure, strategy, etc. fully planned by January 2005.

If you have more questions about what I have explained, don't hesitate to contact me.

my contact info is:



sorry, i forgot that part.

Sounds like you have laid a good solid foundation for change, Billie. I'm thrilled to see your item #2! Do you have a profile of the homeless individuals living in Orange Co? I'm specifically interested in how many are living here to be close to medical care.

Only one warm jacket donated so far.

Most Americans who rely on just a full-time job earning the federal minimum wage cannot afford the rent and utilities on a one- or two-bedroom apartment, an advocacy group on low-income housing reported Monday.

For a two-bedroom rental alone, the typical worker must earn at least $15.37 an hour — nearly three times the federal minimum wage, the National Low Income Housing Coalition said in its annual "Out of Reach" report.


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