We thought this article was both interesting as well as timely as it makes reference to testimony regarding the Services for Ending Long-term Homelessness Act, legislationÂ that wouldÂ combine housing, mental health services and employment opportunities for homeless individuals.
WASHINGTONâ€”Alphonso Williams had a drug addiction and was homeless for nearly 25 years. Now Williams works as a homeless advocate for Housing for New Hope in Durham.
â€œYou canâ€™t change a person but you can change their surroundings so they can allow themselves to change,â€ he said.
Williams lived in New Hopeâ€™s Phoenix House, a transitional home for men, and said a family-like atmosphere helped him build the self-confidence he needed to find a job and change his life.
â€œA job helps build self-esteem and you feel like you can take care of yourself,â€ he said.
Williams, now a homeowner, came to Washington as a living demonstration that substance abuse and mental heath care services can help the homeless get their lives back on track.
In Washington Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee continued hearings for the nationâ€™s substance abuse and mental health care delivery system.
Terry Allebaugh, executive director of the Housing for New Hope, said there are nearly 540 homeless people in Durham, 11,165 in North Carolina and more than 744,000 across the country. He said between 15 and 20 percent of the homeless population in Durham are veterans.
â€œNobody at any time chooses to be homeless,â€ he said. â€œPiecemeal services, congregate shelters and spare change do not lead to transformative systems of areâ€¦ They need real homes where they are leaseholders with rights and responsibilities. They need real change, not spare change.â€
Allebaugh said 23 percent of the homeless population are chronically homeless, meaning they have lived on the streets with disabling conditions for long periods of times.
â€œThey are there because they are poor and lack access to needed health care systems and affordable housing and services,â€ he said.
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said todayâ€™s system of mental health, substance abuse and homelessness services are â€œfragmented and disconnectedâ€ because of a number of policy changes throughout the years.
â€œThe solutions for treating and preventing mental health issues, substance abuse and homelessness lie within the states, communities and individuals who see first hand, everyday, the destruction and challenges these issues can cause,â€ he said.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said itâ€™s apparent that every state and region has unique issues with substance abuse and mental health problems.
â€œThe objective is how do we help as many people and how do we keep them as part of the community and more importantly productive parts of the community,â€ he said. â€œWe do that with the real understanding that we have challenges.â€