Imagine a nation where everyone has a home…
In 2000, the National Alliance to End Homelessness released A Plan, Not a Dream: How to End Homelessness in Ten Years. Drawing on research and innovative programs from around the country, the plan outlined key strategies that any community can use to end homelessness. The plan outlined four key elements of a plan to end homelessness:
- Plan for outcomes: Every community should collect data that allows it to identify their homeless population; who they are, where they come from, and what services they need in order to stop becoming homeless. By identifying the different types of homeless (veteran, family, youth etc) communities can then focus on what mainstream programs will have the most impact on the different groups and tailor services according to what works best.
- Close the front door (Prevention): Communities should prevent homelessness by making mainstream poverty programs more accountable for outcomes of their clients. By focusing on prevention, communities could reduce the number of homeless by ensuring that they never become homeless in the first place.
- Open the back door (Rapidly ReHousing): Communities should develop, and subsidize when needed, an adequate supply of affordable housing. After an individual or family enters a shelter, all attempts should be made to give them permanent supportive housing so that they may start to become self-sufficient.
- Build the infrastructure: Ending homelessness can be a first step in addressing the problems that lead to poverty and homelessness, including a shortage of affordable housing, incomes that do not pay for basic needs, and a lack of appropriate services for those that need them.
Since the issue of A Plan, Not a Dream, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Bush Administration have challenged cities and counties all over the nation to develop their own 10 Year Plans. To date, over 300 plans have been created and implemented; these plans reflect the ideas and strategies put into place by the National Alliance’s A Plan, Not a Dream. The Eaton County 10 Year Plan, 10 Years is too long…The Eaton County Plan to End Homelessness Today, was created by a group of concerned citizens from all walks of life, including business owners, landlords, government officials, service providers, and past and present homeless individuals. This diverse group realized one thing; that the present way of dealing with the homeless population was not working any longer. Over a span of days, the group focused of the barriers and opportunities that Eaton County faced when it came to ending homelessness.
Eaton County’s 10 Year Plan focuses on several key areas:
- Community Awareness: The first step in the 10 Year Plan is to build up the public’s knowledge of homelessness by educating the community about the “true” nature of homelessness. This includes dispelling the myths of homelessness, portraying the possible barriers that someone may face before becoming homeless, and showing how homelessness affects the community at large.
- Community Will: Once the community realizes that there is a problem, and it needs to be fixed, the 10 Year Plan calls for community will. This includes supporting the plan to end homelessness, investing in public entities such as supportive housing and services, and assisting revenue generation by donating and/or investing in the local community.
- Mechanism for Collaboration: There are already many people and institutions in Eaton County with the desire to work together to end homelessness. There is not, however, an adequate way for these entities to share information and knowledge about this topic. A mechanism needs to be developed for communication and collaboration efforts; this mechanism will allow individuals and service organizations the ability to share knowledge about a particular case so that services are coordinated to help the individual or family who needs the care.
- Philosophy: It is almost impossible to work on underlying barriers to self-reliance if a person does not feel safe; that is, one needs housing before they can be helped with other issues such as low-income or substance dependency. The Eaton County plan calls for adoption of the “Housing First Philosophy.” In Housing First, individuals and families are placed in permanent housing as soon as possible, and support services are then wrapped around them. Eaton County’s plan calls for community and political support of the Housing First Philosophy and the need for extra permanent supportive housing units.
In addition, the Eaton County Plan calls for renovations in the areas of:
- Policy: The Eaton County Plan will be the voice for the homeless and at-risk by challenging policy-makers to address all of the barriers that affect this population.
- Prevention and Empowerment: Prevention services, such as budgeting, are important to help individuals build self-worth and self-sufficiency. Prevention and empowerment services should be tailored to the individual or family to help each become self-reliant and able to sustain housing.
- Incentives: In order to build relationships with individuals and businesses in the community, incentives need to be established. These incentives would make assisting the homeless attractive to people who might be reluctant to participate.
- Transportation: Transportation is often cited as one of the biggest obstacles to becoming self-sufficient. A network of transportation entities is needed for low-income and homeless individuals to take advantage of services offered in other areas.
- Centralized Information and Referral: A key resource to end homelessness is the amount of information and guidance that is available in our area. There is not, however, a good way for businesses and individuals to communicate about their services. A network of supports and services needs to be established so that everyone can take advantage of what Eaton County has to offer.
The Eaton County Plan will be the single most important initiative this county has ever seen. Nothing is more important or fundamental as shelter-not schools, not jails, not public services…
Imagine an Eaton County where everyone has a home of their own…
Please help support the plan by educating yourself and others about the facts: go to http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/1509 to see the plan in its entirety.
If you would like to support Eaton County’s war on homelessness, please join the Eaton County Continuum of Care at the Barry Eaton Health Department office at 1033 Healthcare Dr, Charlotte on the second Monday of the month at 9am. The meeting is free and open to the public.
If you would like to donate your time or make a monetary contribution to ending homelessness, or would like more information about the Eaton County 10 Year Plan, contact:
Capital Area Community Services (CACS)
1370 N. Clinton Tr.
Charlotte, MI 48813
Housing Services Mid Michigan (HSMM)
PO Box 746
319 S. Cochran Ave
Charlotte, MI 48813
945 Reynolds Rd.
Charlotte, MI 48813
PO Box 369
245 S. Cochran Ave.
Charlotte, MI 48813