A recent story by Penn Live editor Matt Zancey “Late night in Harrisburg, a homeless person asks for a ride: What would you do? ” merited the reposting of this contributor’s piece originally published on March 14, 2013.
The ultimate goal is to eliminate it.
During the 2012 Point In Time Survey, a community-wide counting of homeless persons in a 24-hour period, 408 homeless persons including 127 children were identified in the capital region. The percentage of males was 41.1% and female was 58.9%. The majority of homeless persons were single, 75.5%, and there were 65 homeless families counted. 49.3% were African American followed by the next highest category which was Caucasian at 39.9%.
66.9% were Dauphin County residents three months prior to homelessness including 53.7% who resided in Harrisburg. 19.6% were employed. 14.2% were veterans. Of the adults surveyed, 57 (10.6%) were unsheltered; 224 (41.5%) were sheltered in emergency or transitional housing; 106 (19.6%) were permanently sheltered; 78 (14.4%) were in special sheltering programs like homeless prevention/rapid re-housing rental assistance or Safe Haven; and 75 (13.9%) were near homeless as the individual can be expected to become homeless within 30 days.
Homelessness is a very real thing beyond the numbers that evidence it exists. Throughout the Harrisburg area men, women, and children battle poverty, the lack of affordable housing, mental illness, domestic violence, and the absence of healthy support systems. In too many cases, the result of these challenges is homelessness.
Fortunately, the on-going efforts to address homelessness in the capital region are growing, remain strong, and are active. Yet, especially in our urban core, there continues to be a need for additional affordable housing and services to support homeless individuals and families.
The Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness (CACH) is a voluntary collaborative effort to address homelessness in the City of Harrisburg and Dauphin County. The Coalition is designed to involve faith based organizations, local and state governments, foundations, non-profit organizations, and businesses. The goal is to comprehensively and cooperatively combat this conquerable problem in our community.
The Coalition has fostered enhanced communication between service providers from all sectors of the community including the business community and general public. This outreach and inclusiveness has improved the effectiveness and efficiency of the programs offered to aid the homeless. CACH’s efforts have reduced duplication of services and helped achieve a more coordinated approach to the homelessness problem.
Jointly funded in a unique arrangement by The County of Dauphin, City of Harrisburg, The Foundation for Enhancing Communities and United Way of the Capital Region, the Coalition is recognized as the authority and coordinator of services and housing for people who are homeless or nearly homeless in our community. Thus, CACH conducts regular studies of the homeless population and has developed a information management system that supports a number of homeless service provider organizations.
In November 2006, the City and County designated CACH as the local lead agency to implement Home Run: The Capital Area’s 10–Year Plan to End Homeless in the County of Dauphin and the City of Harrisburg. This project is the culmination of an eight month planning effort by providers of homeless services, emergency service providers, regional, state and local government leaders, affordable housing providers and developers, community leaders, and homeless people themselves.
Home Run is a long-range plan to help our citizens who are homeless establish healthy and stable lives in permanent housing. Concurrently, it also establishes strategy to prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless. Its recommendations are evidence-based, and draw from the best practices of innovative programs and initiatives throughout the country.
Home Run is intended to end long-term or chronic homelessness in our community by incorporating evidence-based practices in the continuum of care. A growing body of research demonstrates that members of this group are poorly served by traditional efforts which results in a disproportionate share of emergency services and resources being dedicated to them.
As well as Home Run, CACH is tasked with overseeing the submission of the annual HUD Continuum of Care application for funding. Through CACH’s efforts, more than $10 million has been obtained from federal sources to address the homeless problem in the City and County in the last nine years through the competitive Continuum of Care Grant process.
Progress is being made in address the problem in our community.
In 2012 and the prior five years in Harrisburg and Dauphin County:
- Total Unsheltered and Sheltered homeless population decreased from 432 to 372.
- Unsheltered homeless population count decreased by 34% 88 to 58 individuals.
- Sheltered homeless population decreased by 9% from 344-314 persons.
- Those housed in Permanent Housing increased by 74% from 75 to 131 individuals.
- There was an overall increase in homeless housing program inventory by 117 beds.
- Shelter and Transitional Housing beds increased 11% from 379 to 428 since 2008.
- Permanent Housing grew by 30% from 102 to 145 beds, and 25 Safe Haven beds.
- The Total number of Chronic Homeless individuals in Point in Time counts decreased by 36% from 183 to 117. At the same time the number of persons placed into permanent supportive housing beds rose from 75 to 131.
- From 2008 to 2012 homeless individuals with a mental health condition decreased from 28% sheltered and 27% unsheltered to 15% and 19% respectively. Housing options for this sub-population increased by 68 beds.
- The number of unsheltered homeless veterans decreased from 17% to 9% as 16 veterans transitional program beds and 52 HUD VASH vouchers became available.
- The number of Domestic Violence Victims housed increased from 18 to 23.
- 58 rural homeless individuals and family members served with rental assistance.
CACH’s multi-year effort has demonstrated continued progress in implementing the plan. Yet, much more remains to be accomplished. These activities have laid the foundation for a successful effort to eliminate chronic homelessness from our community.
For more information about our community’s efforts to address homelessness, please contact the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness at 717-255-6587, or by writing to P.O. Box 2157, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2157.
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