Wednesday, June 14, 2006 | Thank you so much for today’s story in on regional plans designed to end homelessness. Obviously a challenge, but finally we are all working in the same direction, so there’s hope for real solutions. Back during the days of putting the ballpark project together and coordinating its construction, Mike Madigan was faced with finding ways to address the mitigating measures contained in the EIR document for the project, one being the concern about the homeless in the area and the potential for them to just move into neighborhoods around downtown. Mike convened a small group of people from various governmental agencies to focus on just this issue. We did a little research and determined the different elements of homelessness, what services were available at the time for each sector and where the holes were. One such “hole” was that while almost all sectors of homelessness had services available, none of the service providers had enough beds to effectively operate a continuum of care program. The biggest need, though, was for those individuals who were dually diagnosed with mental illness and some form of addiction, be it drugs or alcohol. These were the people that the service providers could not solve problems for, as the issues were just insurmountable. That was the group that we focused on.

Working together, the city, county, CCDC, Housing Commission and affordable housing advocates developed a pilot program for a continuum of care that addressed the dually diagnosed population. Together we went to the State and were awarded $10 million for a 3-year program. The county took responsibility for “intake,” assessments and placement into programs for these people. The city – through the Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team – worked with the homeless most in need to encourage them to enter the program. CCDC and the Housing Commission developed interim and permanent supportive housing. In other words, the collaborative approach worked. At last report (several years ago), just over 250 of these formerly “impossible” cases were addressed and with great success.

I’ve shared this with you just so you understand that the collaborative that the region is developing now really does have a chance to succeed, even more so than that little pilot program simply because this is a major regional issue that can’t be solved piece meal. The current approach is even better. My hope is that all cities in the county and the county get on board early and make the commitment necessary to work through the inherent challenges. It can be done.

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