Ms. Mandell’s article focused on how this award “will be used to jump-start the county’s “Housing First” initiative, which is expected to begin next summer.” The following is a portion of her article. To read the full article click here.
County receives housing grant Tuesday, December 25, 2007
By MEREDITH MANDELL HERALD NEWS
PASSAIC — A $2.5 million federal grant will pay for a pilot program for Passaic County to provide permanent housing for the chronically homeless.
About $1.4 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will be used to jump-start the county’s “Housing First” initiative, which is expected to begin next summer. About $1.1 million of the grant will be used for other shelter assistance programs.
The “Housing First” model provides permanent shelter for those who have been identified as being chronically homeless. Many of the chronically homeless have been diagnosed as having severe behavioral problems — such as alcohol and drug abuse or those who engage in prostitution.
If they reject counseling or other assistance, they can still remain in their apartments as long as they uphold lease agreements, officials said.
The program will give vouchers for 21 chronically homeless individuals to move in their own apartments at scattered-site housing throughout Passaic County. Applications have not been printed and criteria not established for the program, officials said. The HUD grant is awarded annually on a competitive basis.
It is hoped that people who are eventually accepted into Housing First will over time become self-sufficient and productive contributors to society. National studies show that if permanent supportive housing is made available to the chronically homeless, it can reduce emergency room visits and detoxification admission.
Nevertheless, opinion is divided about the effectiveness of the program and whether it drains resources from homeless shelters.
So far, the program has been adopted by 150 U.S. cities, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a Washington D.C-based advocacy group. In Passaic County, officials said they plan on having case managers who will visit program participants’ homes to encourage them to accept counseling. The chronically homeless residents can refuse to abide by the same set of rules for other residential shelters — such as a curfew or a no-alcohol policy, officials said.
Local housing officials believe adopting the Housing First model is a more long-term and cost-effective solution than the traditional means of putting the homeless into temporary shelters.