Housing First reduces homelessness in Central Florida

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Occasionally I get to return to a post with better news. This is one of those rare times, and I believe worth celebrating. Roughly two years ago I wrote about homelessness in Central Florida—and the lack of imagination to end it. Well since then folks have been busy imagining better, as it were.

According to the annual census required by federal law homelessness in this metro-region has been reduced by some 60 percent since 2013, and by 23 percent in the last year alone. Now the numbers are understandable fuzzy (as it’s often difficult to determine exactly how many folks are without a home on a single count), but the trend is large enough to know that recent efforts to provide permanent housing first are succeeding:

But Andrae Bailey, CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, said the three-year trend lines up with reliable data on the number of people who have been moved from the streets into permanent housing. And the census itself — conducted with the help of more than 100 trained volunteers and nonprofit staff members — was the region’s most thorough so far, he said.

“This absolutely shows that the Housing First initiative is working,” he said of the nationwide effort to get homeless individuals and families into apartments first and then address issues of joblessness, addiction and disability, rather than the other way around. “This is the first downward trend we’ve seen in our community’s history, and it’s a moment to celebrate — while realizing there is still a lot of work to do.”

As it has in other areas of the country where this strategy has been implemented, providing homes for people without them actually reduces homelessness. This particular push began with chronically homeless veterans, then onward to families. Hopefully this trend continues to encompass any who find themselves without permanent, safe shelter—which everyone, regardless of character or history, deserves.

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