Saturday, May 19, 2012

More About Housing the Homeless

Nathan Mayberg has an article in today's Register-Star that provides more information about the two proposals the county received in response to its RFP: "Homeless plans leave questions." In the article, it is revealed how this newest proposal from the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, in partnership with the Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene Counties and calling itself Civic Hudson Emergency and Transitional Housing (CHETH), coordinates with their proposal to house the homeless on two floors above a new police and city court building to be constructed at the corner of Fourth and Columbia streets. The facility at State and Seventh would provide Tier 1 and Tier 2 housing, while the facility at Fourth and Columbia would provide Tier 3 housing.

Of course, there are those who believe that the three-tier approach to addressing homelessness being proposed by both CHETH and Maranatha is outdated and institutionalizes homelessness instead of ending it. 

Listening to the discussion at meetings of the Human Services Committee, one gets the impression that the county is interested in nothing more than housing homeless people for less money than it is now costing to put them up in motels. If that's the only criterion, here's how the proposals compare. CHETH is offering to house 30 homeless single people in the proposed facility at State and Seventh streets for $611,015 a year; that's $20,367 per person per year. Maranatha is offering to house 28 homeless single people in a facility yet to be found for $680,400 a year; that's $24,300 person per year.   


  1. uh i know single people that have their own apartments and car and earn $15 K / year ...

  2. Measuring homelessness is difficult. Point in time and period prevalence counts are inexact. Columbia County recently counted twenty seven homeless singles. Taxpayers should be prepared to accept that once shelter, transitional and supportive housing units are created the numbers of single homeless in Columbia County will increase. National studies have shown that homeless rates triple once beds are created to assist people AFTER they are homeless. If, as Carol posits, the County is looking to spend less money on their small homeless population I suggest revisiting spending in three years time once the three tier system is up and running. Costs will have soared. Homelessness and the institutions that support it are entrenched and expensive, especially for the chronically homeless (a finite population by the way). The Continuum of Care -- the three tiered system -- has created a growth industry in homeless assistance without reducing homelessness. The proposals before the County appear to be typical linear continuum models which assume that mental illness and/or substance abuse are obstacles to being housed and a person must go through a continuum of care and be treatment compliant for a period of time before they are "housing ready." The preferred approach to ending homelessness is a comprehensive prevention program aimed at keeping people housed coupled with permanent supportive housing, preferably scatter site, for the chronically homeless. Shelter stays should be short and churning eliminated. Transitional housing has been shown to have a long length of stay and be largely unnecessary. More progressive national models of transitional housing are targeted only at people coming out of institutions without housing with the aim or rapid rehousing. My criticism of the proposals is with their lack of innovation, with more of the same, and with the knowledge that the proposals will do nothing to end homelessness in Columbia County and may be a partner to an increase in numbers. Pity.