In honor of Veterans’ Day, here is a second post on innovative housing models serving the needs of veterans that are chronically homeless. Someone is defined as chronically homeless when he or she is an unaccompanied individual, has a disabling condition, and is homeless consecutively for one year or more or has experienced four or more episodes of homelessness in a 3-year period.
The New York Times published this article last week about a homeless housing project in Seattle that allows those with chemical addictions to stay in permanent housing (not an emergency shelter) and still be able to use. This model has been effective throughout the country in ending chronic homelessness.
Bill Hobson, director of the Seattle Downtown Emergency Services Center, provides a good response to those who are angry about the housing that, as some see it, rewards those suffering from addictions by giving them housing:
First, he says, the complaints reflect no understanding of the grip of alcoholism: “Do you really think these men and women would rather live on the streets?” Second, the cost to the public appears to have dropped as the number of visits to the emergency room, jail and the sobering center has plummeted.
Finally, he asks, “what kind of equation of humanity is this: Since you refuse to stop drinking, since you refuse to address your disease, you must die on the streets.”
“These guys have nothing going for them,” he says. “They could not be more dispossessed.”
It isn’t mentioned in the article but one of the reason this housing model is so effective is because it is low-demand. Often, housing providers using traditional models require that those who have chemical addictions discontinue their drug abuse and seek treatment. Yet, this expectation is a barrier to their ability to have stable housing; therefore, they are unable to access shelter and instead must go to the only other options available to them: jails or hospitals, which cost far more for taxpayers than stabilized housing.
Safe Haven housing offers housing first and allows one to maintain that housing even if he or she does not want to seek treatment. Yet, as this article demonstrates, there is a significant relationship between having stable housing and one’s willingness to seek treatment. Safe Haven models make available drug treatment, but do not require it for entry. Not only are Safe Haven models effective in offering an alternative to the street to those who are chronically homeless but also are working well to treat chemical addiction as it effects this particular population.
Safe Haven housing models work for chronically homeless individuals who are in need of stable housing without a lot of stipulations, taxpayers who want cost-effective homeless services models, and service providers who are able to provide the housing and services over a period of time that makes sense to the client while moving them toward greater independence.
Read the NY Times article here.
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