Homelessness in Greenville: Three innovative approaches

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Throughout the country, nonprofit organizations such as The Salvation Army play a crucial role in providing needed services to the homeless population. But many times these agencies must work with government officials, law enforcement officials and other local institutions in order to produce further long-lasting, widespread change. Below are some measures that other communities throughout the U.S. have taken in order to address homelessness — measures that could serve as models for solutions here in Greenville and the Upstate.

Utah

In 2005, Utah launched a “Housing First” initiative in order to combat its severe chronic homelessness problem. Through Housing First, the state provides chronically homeless people with housing and services to help address the root causes of their homelessness, ranging from mental illness to substance abuse to low educational attainment.

The federal definitions of chronic homelessness encompass those who have a disabling condition and have been homeless for more than a year or have experienced four instances of homelessness in three years. Chronic homelessness differs from transitional homelessness, in which individuals are homeless for only a short period of time, and episodic homelessness, in which individuals “frequently shuttle in and out of homelessness.” In 2005, the Point-In-Time Count estimated that 13,690 individuals were experiencing homelessness in Utah; 1,932 (14 percent) of those cases were chronic.

In April 2015, state officials announced that through Housing First, chronic homelessness had dropped 91 percent. However, that figure did not include the transitional and episodic homeless population, and therefore overall homelessness in Utah remains a major concern: In 2015, the Point-In-Time Count estimated that 14,516 individuals experienced homelessness, compared with 13,612 in 2014. The Road Home shelter in Salt Lake City, the state’s largest homeless shelter with more than 1,000 beds, served more than 7,000 individuals in 2015. Currently Salt Lake City Council is struggling to determine where to place two new 250-bed shelters.

Sources: jobs.utah.gov, nationalhomeless.org, Deseret News, The Salt Lake Tribune, theroadhome.org

 

Albuquerque, N.M.

During his tenure as mayor of Albuquerque, Richard Berry has made it a priority to connect with the city’s homeless population. He found that many homeless individuals who were on the streets panhandling did not want to be in that situation but found themselves with no alternative. Last September, Albuquerque launched the There’s a Better Way program. Through a partnership with a nonprofit organization that serves the homeless, panhandlers who want to work are picked up in a van and paid $9 an hour to beautify the city, clearing litter and weeds from city streets. The workers are provided lunch and offered overnight shelter if needed. So far, the program has provided 932 jobs, and more than 100 people have found permanent employment. The city has sought additional funding to increase the program from two to four days a week to accommodate demand, and many other cities are interested in replicating the program.

Source: The Washington Post

 

Charlotte, N.C.

Ten percent of Charlotte’s homeless population is considered chronically homeless. In early 2015, homeless and housing organizations, education and faith communities and government and law enforcement officials within Charlotte collaborated to launch a plan to end chronic homelessness in Mecklenburg County. Within two years, they want to raise $11 million, which will pay to open and operate a new 100-unit facility that will house and provide services to the chronically homeless. The goal is to get 450 of the city’s most vulnerable homeless individuals off the streets. Like Utah, Charlotte will use a housing first-style initiative, giving the chronically homeless homes and then providing them with support and treatment services. Meanwhile, agencies such as Crisis Assistance Ministries aim to alleviate Charlotte’s homelessness problem by providing the working poor with housing and financial stability assistance, furniture, household goods and clothing, among other services.

Source: The Charlotte Observer, crisisassistance.org

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