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City of Seattle
Gregory J. Nickels (former Mayor)

SUBJECT: Mayor proposes more funding to help chronically homeless

10/22/2008  10:30:00 AM

Mayor proposes more funding to help chronically homeless
$2.1 million more for innovative “Housing First” units

Mayor proposes more funding to help chronically homeless, October 22, 2008SEATTLE – Mayor Greg Nickels is proposing an additional $2.1 million in his 2009-2010 budget for permanent housing units for chronically homeless individuals.  The funding continues the Mayor’s commitment to “Housing First” projects, a highly successful approach that combines housing with important in-house medical and mental health services and other support programs.

“The idea behind Housing First is simple: reach out to the hardest to reach, move them into safe, decent housing, and then give them the services they need to rebuild their lives,” said Nickels. “Our existing Housing First programs have proven successful at breaking the cycle of homelessness, as well as saving millions and reducing the burden on our emergency, social and health services.”

In just the past three years, Seattle has put 280 Housing First units in operation with another 289 expected to be online by 2011. The proposed $2.1 million is expected to secure approximately 40 additional units.  Seattle has taken a leadership role in funding Housing First programs through the support of 1811 Eastlake, Plymouth on Stewart and others.

Nickels highlighted the proposed funding at the Langdon & Anne Simons Senior Apartments, where 94 formerly homeless seniors, 38 of them veterans, have found a safe home with the necessary supportive services the Housing First model provides.

Twenty-three of the units at the Simons Apartments, developed and managed by Plymouth Housing Group, house formerly homeless veterans. Through a unique partnership between Plymouth and the Department of Veterans Affairs and the King County Veterans Program, case managers ensure residents can tap into all resources available to them as veterans, as well as access specialized services including medical care, mental health counseling, and job programs.

“Many veterans leave the service and resume their lives. But some return to fight a different kind of battle: with drugs, alcohol or mental illness,” Nickels said. “That’s not right. Veterans who served our country in war shouldn’t be sleeping on our streets at home.”

“Providing on-site services with housing is more humane and more cost effective than paying for these same individuals to cycle in and out of Harborview, the sobering center or jail,” said Adrienne Quinn, director of the city’s Office of Housing.

Separate studies of Seattle’s first two Housing First projects – 1811 Eastlake and Plymouth on Stewart – revealed similar findings when released in January 2008.  Preliminary research showed an estimated savings of $4 million because of fewer visits by these formerly chronically homeless individuals to the Harborview Medical Center and the Dutch Schisler Sobering Center, as well as less use of other crisis-treatment services.  More importantly, residents reported that in addition to improving their housing situation, the program helped them deal more effectively with daily problems, improved their physical health and helped them reduce drug use.

National studies have shown homeless families and individuals are more responsive to interventions and social services after they are safely in permanent housing. Residents in Housing First programs are given access to intensive services, such as mental health or chemical dependency counseling and treatment, job training, and other services to help them become self-sufficient.

The proposed additional funding for Housing First, which will not be restricted to units for veterans, will be awarded through the Office of Housing’s spring 2009 funding round.

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