Not to cast too dismal a shadow over the much-touted “Housing First” initiative that is about to begin in Passaic County, but this pilot program contains such a massive common sense flaw at its center that even experienced homeless advocates question whether it can work. With $1.4 million in federal housing funds earmarked in Passaic County for “Housing First,” this is no small matter.
Unfortunately, it appears that Mr. Kelly has not done his home work. Has he read “Million Dollar Murray” by Malcolm Gladwell? Has he read the articles on homelessness and the editorial on Housing first in his sister newspaper the Herald News? Has he reviewed any of the studies on Housing First? Who are the homeless advocates that he has spoken with about Housing First?
The big question of course is where was Mike Kelly when Bergen County hosted a workshop on housing First on October 25th? The event was held a short walk from Mr. Kelly’s office. The presenters understood Housing first not as a concept but from the reality of having lived and worked in that environment. He could not only have heard from them but from individuals who have overcome mental illness and substance abuse with permanent, affordable and supportive housing. he might have even found out that many non-profits including ones in Passaic and Bergen have been successfully implementing Housing First for almost a decade.
As this is New Years Eve perhaps Mr. Kelly will make a resolution to not only rely on his perception of common sense but to do more meaningful research on the reality of ending homelessness – perhaps by spending time meeting with the homeless in Passaic County and learning about the comprehensive efforts to end homeless which will include Housing First. Perhaps he might want to volunteer to count the homeless on January 29th or to participate in the Project Homeless Connect events?
Fortunately, in 2008 we will all have many opportunities to celebrate the success of our efforts to end homelessness!