Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Here's an idea: fighting homelessness
with apartments instead of shelters

Andrew Adams was homeless for much of the past 20 years. Then, last fall, he was pulled from the street by a program that places mentally ill homeless people in apartments and provides them with services to help them live on their own.

He now lives in a small one-bedroom apartment in a low-rent neighborhood. It is neatly furnished with donated furniture and a few things Adams has purchased.

"I'm beginning to feel more complete," Adams said as he sat on a small couch in his living room. "I have heat now, so I don't have to be cold."

A national effort to end chronic homelessness gives people permanent housing, in apartments, rather than offering temporary beds in shelters.

The effort targets the hardest cases: the people who mutter on street corners, sleep in doorways and rummage through garbage cans. Most are addicts, mentally ill or physically disabled. Many have resisted efforts to help them, some for decades.

In a few cities, the results have proved remarkable. But it has not come easy for communities as they try to navigate the maze of funding sources needed for such programs.

"We had spent 20 years managing the crisis," said Philip Mangano, who coordinates homeless programs for the federal government. "We thought a blanket and a bowl of soup was the best we could do for people. ... Now, we intend to end this disgrace."

The U.S. had three-quarters of a million homeless people according to a national count in January 2005—the government's only national estimate. Nearly half of the homeless slept outside; the rest were in shelters or transitional beds.

Read more in the San Jose Mercury News.


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