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Ending homelessness one idea at a time
February 5, 2014

What are people in other states doing to end homelessness and serve homeless people? Here are three creative and successful ideas from Utah, Virginia and Sonoma County, California, very much worth reading.

Utah’s solution? Give people homes. In contrast to such cities as Raleigh, NC; Tampa, Philadephia and Columbia SC -- all of which have enacted laws with variations on making it illegal to be homeless or serve homeless people in certain venues – instead, the state of Utah has done something radical. Utah "began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail.” Wow. As a result, according to this article, Utah has reduced homelessness by 78 percent since 2005.

The state of Virginia recently undertook a “100 Day Rapid Re-Housing Challenge” whereby 31 organizations in that state housed as many families as possible. When the challenge ended on Jan. 24, 2014, they’d moved 545 families into housing. What did Virginia do differently? “Organizations implemented new strategies, increased capacity, recruited new landlords, and leveraged new sources of revenue in order to house as many families as possible. The 545 families they housed represent a 52 percent increase in the rate of re-housing among these organizations compared to rates before the challenge.” The state recognizes that helping families to maintain housing stability is the next step but they are rightfully celebrating this accomplishment.

Sonoma County, California, has made life a little easier for homeless people who sleep in their cars by changing a law that made it illegal to do so. The county board arranged with the county fairgrounds to use its parking lot nightly as a car park of sorts, and contracted with Catholic Charities to provide a morning meal and hygiene facilities for those sleeping there. “The board deleted the words ‘human habitation in vehicles' from the ordinance that now allows sleeping overnight in vehicles on the side of a public road if it is for one's safety and the safety of others.” The ordinance takes effect later this month. Advocates acknowledge it’s a short-term solution but it creates a little more dignity for those experiencing homelessness in Sonoma County.