100 Homes

Volunteers survey homeless for potential placement.

| October 11, 2012
- Focus For The Good/Bill Piacesi

It's around 6 a.m., and the tiniest hint of daylight is shining over a homeless encampment in Washington Bottoms, revealing crude tents made with tarp and string, stacks of dirty mattresses, and ground littered with plates, cups, books, and clothing.

County commissioner Steve Mulroy has just awakened a man sleeping under a tarp. The man, who appears to be in his late 20s, emerges fully dressed in ragged jeans and a hoodie. Mulroy asks the man a series of questions about his physical and mental health and substance abuse history, as he jots each answer down on a paper survey held by a clipboard.

Mulroy is one of eight volunteers on a team surveying homeless people in the Poplar/Cleveland/Claybrook area on day one of last week's three-day 100K Homes Campaign led by the Community Alliance for the Homeless. Around 80 volunteers scattered throughout the county in teams, after meeting at Calvary Episcopal Church at 4:45 a.m. Based on the answers

received, the 100 most vulnerable will be placed in permanent housing.

"Most vulnerable is what is considered tri-morbidity. That means they have mental health, medical, and substance abuse issues," said Katie Kitchin, director of the Community Alliance for the Homeless. "But even just medical and mental health issues together would put someone in significant jeopardy when they live outside."

Over the three days, volunteers surveyed 259 homeless people. After entering their answers into a database designed to score people based on greatest risk, 135 of them were deemed "most vulnerable." Next, trained professionals will hit the streets again for a more detailed follow-up assessment with those people.

So far, the Community Alliance has secured 55 one-bedroom and efficiency apartments to house those most at risk, and Kitchin says they should soon reach their goal of 100 homes by January with the help of some community partnerships. Grants from the Office of Housing and Community Development helped the group secure the homes they have.

Once housed, people can stay in the apartments as long as they like, but they'll be required to pay 30 percent of their incomes.

"They'll all be disabled, so if they don't come in with disability income, we'll help them access that," Kitchin said. "It's a very laborious process, so it's understandable that people who qualify for disability don't have it."

On Monday, the agency kicked off a campaign to raise $100,000 to furnish the apartments. At the press conference, Robert Lipscomb, director of the city's division of housing and community development, announced the city would donate $25,000.

In addition to providing housing, the Community Alliance will also pair the newly housed with social services, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, thanks to a $250,000 contribution from the Shelby County Commission earlier this year.

"The goal of permanent housing is to take away the psychological pressure of timelines," Kitchin said. "It allows people to get better and healthier on their own. But many people will eventually move on to less expensive and less intensive programs once they get better."

The local 100K Homes event is part of a national effort to place 100,000 homeless people into permanent housing by July.

Comments (9)

Showing 1-9 of 9

There are more abandoned homes than homeless folks in the U.S.A. Let's offer jobs to those without a home to earn one by fixing up unused homes and cleaning up neighborhoods at the same time. Win-Win for the people of Shelby County.

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Posted by Mark Plumlee on 10/15/2012 at 9:48 AM

We couldn't do that. That will go against the 47% lie that Romney espoused. At least Ryan was a little better by saying only 30% of americans were takers.

Why do anything for these people? Let us give more money in tax breaks for the wealthy and super wealthy like Romney, so that they can stash it away, overseas, next to the drug lords accounts in the Cayman Islands and other off shore accounts in Switzland. After all, it creates more jobs for those foreigners instead of americans. LOL

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 10/15/2012 at 11:20 AM

I sincerely hope that they do a good job tracking the progress of these individuals.

If we're going to be putting tax money into a program like this, which isn't a bad idea, then time and effort needs to be spent in making sure the program is having a positive impact for those involved.

I'm all for giving non-productive members of society a shot to turn things around and produce for both themselves and the greater good. I'm NOT for throwing money at a problem and walking away. That never works. Let's hope this program has good follow up AND good results. If so, it can and should be expanded.

And Mark, I don't think that's a bad idea what you propose. The problem, again, with a program like that, would be follow up to make sure that the investment in those people was paying off. A lot, not all, but a lot of people who are in that situation are there because they can't get out of their own way long enough to be productive. Some just have bad fortune, but many just can't get out of their own way long enough to get on track.

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Posted by GroveReb84 on 10/15/2012 at 2:35 PM

And if the investment in those people doesn't pay off, what then?

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Posted by Jeff on 10/15/2012 at 2:55 PM


Then you stop throwing good money away and think of other ways to help.

I remember it used to be you could involuntarily grab up these poor people and put them in places where they would recieve help, whether it was for mental illness or substance abuse, or something else. At public expense, which I think was a good thing.

But then your friends at the ALCU convinced the courts that this was a violation of their civil rights.

So here we are. And it very well may be that nothing at all can be done for these people. They may have tri-morbidity, but it is their constitutional right to stay on the street, get sicker and sicker, and die.

Jeff, I don't like that idea either, I just don't know how to fix this without becoming a legal guardian of their welfare and making decisions for them until they are recovered. And the courts will not premit that.

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 10/15/2012 at 3:18 PM

It seems like a good idea at face value. The problem is what happens after a property is rehabbed? Many Habitat for Humanity home receivers/owners have been bitten in the butt by using their new, free of any mortgage property to fall into a cesspool of debt. Many have filed bankruptcy and some have even lost the very homes that were supposed to help lift them from the very situation that they wound up right back in.

While the solution seems very simple, it can actually be quite complex. I'm in favor of a program like this as long as it is well thought out with proper checks and safeguards.

Posted by mad_merc on 10/15/2012 at 3:50 PM

Exactly my point. Like it or not there are some people that just can't be helped. There are some that just need a break to get them on track, but if you can't reach those people, then it's a waste of money.

Posted by GroveReb84 on 10/15/2012 at 8:35 PM

Yeah, but this isn't about giving away houses. These are apartments. Anyway, you talk about sound investments - what's a human life worth? When is the investment no longer sound? Who gets to decide? As for the ACLU, back in the day people who were not mentally ill were being hospitalized against their will. Remember One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? This country is wealthy enough to provide basic needs for everyone who can't care for themselves, but politically we would rather throw something away than give it to someone who needs it but may seem undeserving.

Merc, it's up to the banks not to loan money on those Habitat houses, but all they see is easy money and a quick foreclosure - the bank picks up a practically brand new house for next to nothing and gets to turn around and sell it at full market price. IMO, Habitat should "free rent" those homes for a period before turning over title.

Posted by Jeff on 10/16/2012 at 8:38 AM

@ Jeff

I do not disagree with you at all. Human life is infinitely valuable.

Continuing to expend resources in programs or activities that are not producing results is a reason to discontinue that expenditure.

I get the movie reference, but what we have now are people who are clearly in need of help, and we have somehow gotten ourselves into a position where the mentally ill and substance dependent are are in charge of their own treatment, which in most cases is none at all.

JMHO, but there has to be some way to get these people help, and that is something worth being taxed for. I don't know who would be in charge of such a program, that is the $64 dollar question. Perhaps a local committee of health care professionals? How do we get them the authority to help those sick people who will not cooperate willingly?

Posted by ArlingtonPop on 10/16/2012 at 9:50 AM
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