Contra Costa Board Approves 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness
June 9, 2004
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An ambitious ten-year plan for ending chronic homelessness was approved by the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
The plan, the first in the Bay Area, was submitted by Contra Costa Health Services and developed with input from consumers, elected officials, businesses, the faith community, service providers and other community members. It focuses on the chronically homeless, who represent more than 30% of the homeless population in the county but use more than 50% of the resources available. (The plan is available online at ccpublichealth.org.)
"Our goal is to end homelessness rather than manage it. We're already beginning to implement these long-term permanent solutions and we're seeing results," says Cynthia Belon, Director of the County's Homeless Program.
The 10-year plan outlines comprehensive strategies aimed at the most difficult and hardest to reach homeless people who often also have substance abuse and mental health problems. Contra Costa began those efforts one year ago when it became one of 11 communities in the nation to receive a federal grant to provide permanent housing with supportive services to chronic homeless living in encampments and uninhabitable situations. That grant funded housing vouchers for apartment rentals, support services and outreach to people in encampments.
"The strategies described in the 10-year plan will cost counties and cities a lot less in the long run and will be the most humane approaches we know to address chronic homelessness. Everyone wins," says Belon.
According to her, each year 15,000 people in Contra Costa experience homelessness. She says research shows that for those who are chronically homeless, providing permanent supportive housing is much cheaper than forcing homeless people in crisis to use emergency services like hospitals, law enforcement and paramedics.
The 10-year plan strategies fall into five priority areas including: help individuals gain or regain housing as soon as possible; provide integrated, wrap-around services to stabilize and help homeless people become self-sufficient and to stay housed; help people access employment to pay for housing; conduct outreach to link chronically homeless people to services; and prevent homelessness from occurring.
"Here in Contra Costa we have examples of steps we've already successfully begun in these areas," says Belon. "We know this can work."
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- Cynthia Belon