Raleigh, NC Ending Homelessness -- The 10 Year Plan
Status: Initiated in 2005
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In America, the stark contrast between our role as the wealthiest nation on earth and as a country of great need and want is most evident in the visible shame of homelessness in communities of every size. Despite two decades of federal support, statewide planning, and local initiatives, homelessness continues to grow.
In North Carolina, homeless shelters and transitional programs served 46,000 people in 2002 alone (N.C. Interagency Council for Coordinating Homeless Programs, 2003). In Raleigh, the South Wilmington Center (SWSC), the largest of the city’s eight homeless shelters, served 1,895 different men last year, with a total of 73,450 overnight stays and 90,550 meals.
In Wake County, 1,235 people were counted in a one-day survey of homelessness in December 2003, providing a single “snapshot” of who was homeless on that particular day – the numbers are far higher on an annual basis1. In addition to those counted in shelters, 102 people were found outdoors living on the streets. Another 15,000 people were living doubled up with family or friends, and at risk of homelessness. Family homelessness in Wake County is rising by an estimated 11% yearly.
Most people in our community find themselves homeless because they are priced out of the housing market. In fact, a majority of people who are homeless work, most often in low-paying service jobs that provide no benefits: as fast food restaurant workers, nurse’s aides, motel housekeepers, and the like.
The North Carolina Housing Coalition (2004) reports that 740,000 households in our state “do not have and cannot afford a safe, stable home.” This “housing affordability gap” is especially acute in high-cost housing areas like Raleigh, where the fair market rent for a 2-bedroom apartment is $799. With the minimum wage at $5.15 per hour, even people earning twice that can’t find affordable housing.
In fact, over 25,000 additional housing units are needed for people earning less than 40% of median income ($23,475 per year). Clearly, what we are doing is not working. We must change how we do business.
Allowing people to become or remain homeless is ineffective, inhumane, and costly. The longer individuals and families remain homeless, the more difficult it may be to engage or re-engage them in needed health and behavioral health care, housing, and social services. Children who are homeless experience developmental delays and emotional problems (Better Homes Fund, 1999). Frequently, people who are homeless cycle through inappropriate and expensive services, including jails and prisons, emergency rooms, and psychiatric hospitals. For example, the cost of one day at Dorothea Dix Hospital is $594.00, while supportive housing (housing plus services) costs only $33.43 per day for a person with mental illness. Even shelters are expensive: the average monthly cost of a shelter stay in Raleigh is $900, compared with a HUD Section 8 voucher, which provides $701 for a one-bedroom apartment.
We can end homelessness. Communities are coming together to resoundingly reject the notion that homelessness is an inevitable downside of contemporary society. States and communities around the country are preventing and ending homelessness for individuals and families, even those believed to be the most difficult to serve. To do so, they are using evidence-based and promising practices shown to be effective, such as assertive outreach, intensive case management, permanent supportive housing, discharge planning, and integrated treatment for co-occurring mental illnesses and substance use disorders. In addition, homeless services and mainstream providers are integrating services and systems, collecting data to improve outcomes, and educating the community about effective strategies. We must end homelessness. Homelessness is unacceptable in a society that values the dignity and worth of individuals. Simply put, people who are homeless are people first. They share the same hopes and dreams we all do – for a home, a job, meaningful personal relationships, and a sense of belonging. We must create the opportunities and the expectation that all individuals and families will become independent, contributing members to our community to the extent possible. Ensuring a place for all its members makes for both a more just and more productive community.
We know what works to end homelessness and we know why we have to do it. Now is the time to act.
A National Movement
Raleigh/Wake County is the 100th community nationally to undertake the challenge of ending homelessness in 10 years. This effort is spearheaded by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, with endorsement from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of County Commissioners, and the National League of Cities. In 2002, the President called for an end to chronic homelessness in 10 years, and by 2003, the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness was reinvigorated to guide the work of key federal agencies whose polices affect people who are homeless. Along with North Carolina’s capital city, Asheville/Buncombe County, Chapel Hill/Orange County, Charlotte, Durham/Durham County, Gastonia, Henderson, and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County have all embarked on initiatives to prevent and end homelessness in 10 years. The North Carolina Interagency Council for Coordinating Homeless Programs is completing the North Carolina 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. The North Carolina Plan will maximize the use of state-level resources and efforts to help increase the effectiveness of local plans.
An Inclusive Process
In January 2004, the City of Raleigh, Wake County, Wake Continuum of Care, and Triangle United Way formed a partnership and a Planning Team to develop Ending Homelessness: The 10-Year Action Plan. A Steering Committee of business, faith, academia, and service representatives provided ongoing guidance. To ensure broad-based community participation, the Partnership (Planning Team plus Steering Committee) held five public forums attended by more than 150 people each, conducted six focus groups with people who are homeless, and convened eight community leadership forums. An intercollegiate conference on homelessness was hosted by St. Augustine’s College President Dianne Suber, and featured presentations by students whose college classes focused on this issue. In April 2004, a formal announcement of the development of our plan was made at a press conference with Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker; Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Kenn Gardner and Commissioner Phil Jeffreys; State Representatives Brad Miller and David Price; and United States Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Philip Mangano.
The draft plan was presented for public comment in October, revised, and presented in February 2005 to the Raleigh City Council, the Wake County Board of Commissioners, and the public. We are exceptionally grateful for the widespread interest and involvement this vital initiative has sparked. The 10-Year Action Plan reflects the community’s firm commitment and hard-won wisdom about how to prevent and end homelessness in Raleigh and Wake County.
The 10-Year Action Plan planning process has itself created a powerful synergy, producing notable new partnerships, initiatives, and accomplishments over the past year. By the time the Plan was formally presented in February 2005, we could already count the following achievements towards the community-wide commitment to prevent and end homelessness in Raleigh and Wake County:
- The City of Raleigh and Wake County housing departments are collaborating to budget up to an additional $2 million for housing for people who are homeless.
- Triangle United Way has emphasized homelessness throughout its annual fundraising campaign, and has announced a new staff position dedicated to these efforts.
- Area universities and colleges are now offering courses on homelessness, with students presenting research papers on homeless issues at the first Inter-Collegiate Summit on Homelessness in the spring of 2004. Plans are underway for a second summit in spring of 2005.
- The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce has agreed to recruit 20 businesses to hire persons who are homeless.
- Outreach workers, service providers and faith-based groups, who go out into the woods and the streets, are meeting regularly to improve coordination and referrals to resources.
- Downtown Raleigh churches are strengthening their activities and focus on issues of homelessness.
- ROAR (Raleigh Organizing for Action and Results) is working with the City to make low-income housing a priority.
- The Raleigh Police Department has developed new policies regarding their contact with people who are homeless and has been actively involved in providing input and review of this Plan.
- Statewide support is building to increase the North Carolina Housing Trust Fund to a $50 million annual appropriation to increase affordable housing for families and individuals with low incomes.
Two other important initiatives already underway as the 10-Year Action Plan was being developed will play key roles in ensuring that the Plan will have a significant impact on homelessness early on:
- The comprehensive, county-wide Homeless Management Information System that began operating in December 2004 is central to the effort to assess the success of our efforts.
- The Healing Place for Women and Children is scheduled to open in 2006 and will fill a major gap in services for women who are homeless and struggling with substance abuse.
Our Vision, Goal, and Guiding Principles
Emergency shelter and short-term services, while necessary for people confronting a crisis, will not address the myriad and complex problems that many homeless individuals and families confront. Ending Homelessness: The 10-Year Action Plan represents a fundamental change in how we as a community respond to the poorest and most vulnerable of our community members. Permanently ending the disgrace of homelessness in Raleigh/Wake County will benefit the entire community.
The Vision: We will reorient our service system from one that manages homelessness to one that prevents and ends homelessness.
The Goal: We will provide the opportunity for a full and dignified life in the community for every resident of Raleigh/Wake County through a comprehensive, coordinated effort to prevent and end homelessness in the next decade.
Guiding Principles: Realizing the vision and goal of the 10-Year Action Plan requires bold action backed by strategic, thoughtful planning. The following principles underlie the Plan’s objectives and strategies, and will serve as the foundation for planning and implementation throughout the 10-year process:
- Evidence-based and promising practices
- Outcome-driven results
- Galvanizing the community
- Consumer-centered services
- Cultural competence
- Resilience and recovery
The 10-Year Action Plan Objectives and Strategies
We listened to our citizens, read and distilled the research literature, reviewed innovative programs from around the country, analyzed other 10-year plans to end homelessness, inventoried current resources in Raleigh/Wake County, and identified service gaps. From this comprehensive analysis and much thoughtful planning, we have developed objectives, strategies, multiple action steps and benchmarks. Outlined below is a list of the objectives and strategies.
Objective 1: PREVENTION
Prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless through comprehensive discharge planning and targeted resources.
- A. Create and execute comprehensive discharge plans for people leaving institutions.
- B. Design and implement an integrated prevention effort.
- C. Pursue prevention activities within the public school system.
Objective 2: ENGAGEMENT
Expand and coordinate outreach and engagement efforts and create short-term housing capability to engage or re-engage people who are homeless into permanent housing and mainstream health, behavioral health, and social service systems.
- A. Develop Safe Havens (HUD-funded facilities providing shelter and services to hard-to-reach homeless persons with severe mental illness who are on the street and have been unable or unwilling to participate in supportive services).
- B. Create and implement a 24/7 housing crisis response plan.
- C. Phase down shelters and replace with service-enhanced short-term housing that links people with permanent housing.
- D. Strengthen and coordinate outreach and engagement efforts.
Objective 3: HOUSING
Expand the availability and choices of permanent housing that are affordable to individuals and families with extremely low incomes.
- A. Increase the supply of permanent affordable housing.
- B. Develop resources for supportive services available to those in housing.
- C. Educate funders, developers, and citizens.
- D. Establish a Housing First model (permanent housing provided immediately to persons who are homeless, along with voluntary supportive services).
Objective 4: EMPLOYMENT/EDUCATION
Create education, job training, and competitive employment opportunities specific to the needs of individuals and families who are homeless, recently homeless, or at risk of homelessness, including those with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders and youth ages 16-21.
- A. Design and implement education, job readiness, and training programs.
- B. Establish an “Employment First” program for residents of supportive housing (an opportunity for employment to all who want to work).
- C. Fund services that support employment.
- D. Develop specialized training and employment services for people who are or have recently been homeless and who have disabilities.
Objective 5: SERVICES AND SUPPORTS
Enhance services and supports for people who are homeless, at-risk of homelessness, or recently homeless to help them achieve maximum independence and self-sufficiency.
- A. Expand the capacity to serve people with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders.
- B. Expand current multi-service centers to serve as “one stop shops.”
- C. Implement targeted services for those with special needs.
- D. Promote an integrated, comprehensive system of care.
Several key components will support the implementation process. Strong leadership and oversight, clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and inclusion of the broad range of stakeholders in meaningful ways drive the structure for implementation.
Evaluation and public communications are vital to the success of the 10-Year Action Plan. To ensure accountability to the public, progress and outcomes will be shared through an annual Community Report Card. Public communications will include two primary functions: increasing public awareness and understanding of homelessness in our community, including putting a “human face” on homelessness; and publicizing the myriad opportunities that will be created for individuals, congregations, neighborhood groups, and others to become directly involved in preventing and ending homelessness.
Our Next Steps
Developing Ending Homelessness: The 10-Year Action Plan has been a broad-based, collaborative, and mindful process. The objectives, strategies, and specific action steps described in the body of the plan rely both on the research base regarding current best practices and on the perspectives of more than 400 local participants who provided input throughout the planning period. This unprecedented community-wide initiative has produced an Action Plan that is ambitious yet achievable, innovative yet grounded in reality.
Each of the five Plan objectives will be addressed by an Action Team whose members will work together to organize and ensure accomplishment of Plan strategies and action steps. Your help is needed! To join the workforce of community volunteers and dedicated staff, call Triangle United Way at 919-460-8687 and ask for the Homeless Specialist. You can get more information about meetings, schedules and contacts at www.raleighnc.gov. Select “Current Projects – Ending Homelessness.” The job has just begun. Through continuing community involvement and commitment to the goal, we will effectively end homelessness in Raleigh and Wake County by the year 2015.