Mercer County has shown significant progress in ending homelessness. NJ Counts 2014 documented that “Mercer County had the lowest lengths of homelessness among households, with only 6.4% reporting being homeless for over a year; 70.2% had been homeless for less than 3 months.”
In the op-ed Ms. De Santis said:
Housing First, the policy of quickly placing a homeless person or family in a home no matter their reasons for ending up on the street, is essential to reducing homelessness and poverty. This fact has been proven time and time again, across the nation and in Mercer County. The need for stability, a safe place to live and then the time to sort out issues is critical if people are to move forward.
Beyond just providing a roof overhead, those who have been homeless, especially those in chronic, longer-term homeless situations, can be served and saved by what is called supportive housing.
Supportive housing is an innovative and proven solution that addresses some of society’s toughest problems. It combines affordable, quality housing with services that help people who face complex challenges, and provides them the opportunity to live with autonomy and dignity.
Supportive housing improves housing stock, employment, mental and physical health, school attendance and reduces active substance use. Individuals and families in supportive housing are able to live more productive lives.
Supportive housing costs taxpayers less money than the financial burdens society bears when the homeless are stuck in seemingly endless cycles of high-cost crisis care and emergency housing. Numerous studies from across the country, including those done in Massachusetts, Los Angeles, Chicago and Maine, cite the savings.
In closing she said:
Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes deserves accolades for being a leader in the fight to end homelessness. Many other local government officials are also extremely supportive.
Residents of Mercer County should be proud to have innovative elected representatives, thoughtful and visionary in their approaches, who are eager to partner with caring experts and advocates such as the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness. They understand that no one wants to be homeless.
We are confident that with the help of committed leaders, effective advocates and providers, we will see a day when the most vulnerable among us are not faced with the tragedy of living on our streets.