Officials Doing What Can to Help But Could Housing First be the Solution?
A July 22, 2012 feature story on the tent city population in Deptford in the Gloucester County Times makes the case for the Housing First model. The article begins with the profile of Joe Taylor who has lived in a one room tent in a wooded area of Deptford for 7 years.
The writer goes on to profile Taylor’s “neighbors” who tend to be mostly white and middle aged. Many of the tent city “residents” report having substance abuse issues and often this has lead to the downward spiral in their lives that left them homeless. They live out in the elements without bathroom and shower facilities and spend time scavenging for food, drinks and alcohol.
The County’s 2012 Point in Time Count of the homeless only found 17 unsheltered homeless individuals but this is most likely not an accurate picture of the homeless living outside in the County.
The County and Freeholders are aware of the situation and are offering assistance where they can. Those trying to help Taylor and his “neighbors” refer to the need for the men to first get sober before they are able to access housing and services when in reality, they may be ideal candidates for Housing First – a model that does just what it says – provide housing first, prior to services and not with sobriety as a prerequisite.
Quoting Ed Smith, Superintendent of the County’s Division of Social Services and the article, “Getting over the stumbling block of sobriety could be the hardest part of securing general assistance services. ‘Housing requires a service plan, part of which is if you have any substance issues, you have to agree to get clean,’ Smith said.”