At the event, experts discussed the need to focus not only alleviating the suffering of the homeless but on ending homelessness itself as a priority for public policy.
Mercer County Executive Hughes has committed to ending homelessness. He discussed how, in addition to being the right thing to do, ending homelessness saves tax dollars spent on emergency health care and other emergency services made necessary by homelessness.
The press conference highlighted the work of the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, which includes homeless service providers, governmental agencies and advocates, whose combined and coordinated efforts have resulted in dramatic reductions in homelessness.
Two of Mercer Alliance’s initiatives have drawn national attention because of their outcomes and effectiveness:
Their Rapid Re-housing program, developed by the Mercer County Board of Social Services and Catholic Charities of Trenton, has helped homeless families secure housing and return to the workforce. It has also become a model copied by other jurisdictions throughout the country as a strategy to end homelessness and save tax dollars.
Their Housing First program, developed by Greater Trenton Behavioral HealthCare, is based on a national model first begun in New York City, which has been implemented in numerous other communities. Greater Trenton’s Housing First program has reduced emergency health care spending and saved other tax dollars. It has helped chronically homeless single adults break the cycle of homelessness, and begin the path to recovery from mental illness and addiction.
NJ Spotlight highlighted a Housing First success story shared at the press conference.
“Aubrey Rice, 56, found housing through the Housing First initiative on November 23, after 10 years of intermittent homelessness. During this decade, he saw his blood pressure skyrocket, requiring trips to doctors. But he wouldn’t follow up for treatment due to a 35-year-long addiction to drugs and alcohol and the blood-pressure problem became chronic.
‘Before, when I was homeless, I would make doctor appointments but I wouldn’t keep them.”
At the event, County Executive Hughes held a conversation with formerly homeless individuals regarding their experiences while homeless, and how their lives have changed as a result of the combined efforts of their homeless service providers, and the Mercer Alliance partnership.
“Mercer County’s government supports the programs. County Executive Brian M. Hughes said he could understand from personal experience how insecure housing can be a hurdle to receiving needed treatment. While Hughes was never homeless, he is in the 25th year of recovery from alcohol and drug abuse and said it took periods of living with different acquaintances for short periods, three stays at treatment centers, and an arrest in Washington, D.C., before he could envision a future for himself.”
Support for increased funding for programs such as Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing is growing,
“The Good Care Collaborative, a group of healthcare providers and policy experts, publicized yesterday’s event as part of its broader effort to unite different programs across the state that have demonstrated success in improving healthcare outcomes by better coordinating patient care.”