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The Goal of Ending Homelessness

Isn’t the goal of ending homelessness in a democracy unrealistic?

The goal of ending homelessness in Miami-Dade County is shared by the Homeless Trust and the agencies serving persons who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. The goal of Camillus House is to end chronic homelessness in Miami-Dade County, while recognizing that persons who are chronically homeless are the most difficult to treat/rehabilitate and return to productive roles in our community.

The additional capacity at our new site will allow Camillus House (in conjunction with other homeless-serving agencies) to eliminate chronic homelessness as follows.

Reducing the prevalence (total number of cases) of chronic homelessness

First, the additional capacity will allow us to treat more persons who are chronically homeless, thereby systematically reducing the prevalence, or total number of cases, of chronic homelessness.

Reducing the incidence (number of new cases) of chronic homelessness

Second, as the number of existing cases is systematically reduced, our additional treatment capacity will also allow us, over time, to reduce the incidence, or number of new cases, of chronic homelessness once we admit and treat persons who, although they meet the disability criterion, have not been homeless for a year or longer or had four episodes of homelessness in the past three years (i.e., have not yet met the duration condition).

Advancing in this way, we will achieve our goal of ending chronic homelessness when persons with the disabling condition are no longer homeless.

We are not proposing that we will eliminate the disabling conditions of mental illness, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS or serious physical illnesses or disabilities, although we will substantially reduce them. We are proposing that (a) through effective treatment, job training and placement, and housing, persons who currently meet the dual criteria (duration and disability) of chronic homelessness will be able to sustain themselves in housing, and (b) persons who are at risk of becoming chronically homeless because they have one or more disabling conditions will have prompt access to treatment and easy access to temporary or permanent housing once they have completed their treatment and job training, if needed.

Addressing the larger question of ending homelessness (including chronic homelessness), requires a dual set of strategies:

Closing the front door

…which entails efforts to prevent people from becoming home-less in the first place. This usually involves addressing systemic issues, such as increasing emergency rental assistance programs, and working with institutions such as correctional facilities and hospitals to improve their discharge planning so that persons being released have a place to live and are not released to the street. Currently, Camillus House staff are actively involved in efforts to prevent homelessness in Miami, and are planning to expand our homelessness prevention activities beyond providing rental assistance to forestall eviction of housed persons to offering other forms of financial support to help individuals facing unemployment to keeping a job or get another job.

Opening the back door

 …which entails getting people back into housing as soon as possible. The primary strategy here is to increase the stock of affordable housing, so that persons who have been homeless have somewhere to go when their situations are stabilized.

We recognize that the cure for homelessness is housing, and, over the next three years alone, Camillus House plans to open more than 200 new permanent housing apartments for formerly homeless persons at our new site, as well as on land we own across from our Somerville Residence, through community-based apartments and through home-ownership. We are currently developing strategies to make available an additional 300 scattered-site and Camillus-operated units throughout Miami-Dade County by 2013 to meet our Strategic Plan goal of housing 1,340 persons at a time.

Ending homelessness means that persons at-risk of becoming homeless will not be reduced to living and sleeping on the streets. Such persons may still run into problems and lose their housing, but when they do, there will be available a system of services that willimmediately place them into temporary housing and then quickly move them into a stable living situation.Already, great strides have already been made in Miami-Dade County to eliminating the once common sight of entire families living in cars or on the streets. Through the active efforts of the Homeless Trust, now there are no families living in cars or on the streets of Miami-Dade County.

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