A new day for the homeless authority, maybe, but much more to address before they’re on track again! | Savannah’s homeless authority balances budget, cites new day | Savannahnow.com Mobile


Today’s article in the Savannah Morning News comes after the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless (known as the CSAH & Homeless Authority) Board Meeting held yesterday, Tuesday, 2/19/2013.

We were in attendance & are pleased to see this meeting reported however we’re taking a broader view of the meeting with some issues that still remain to be considered.

We start by referencing a quote published at the very end of the article! We hope you read that far or you go back & read the entire article if you didn’t before. (Link below)!

While we see progress being made with the appointment of new Board members who are active & challenging the process that’s going on there, we feel that there are fundamental issues that must be addressed. We’ve written about them before.

These issues we’ve written about have not just gone away with a balanced budget (we still don’t get to see how the money from the City will be used though & that’s an issues for us).

How this newfound balanced budget operates is critical. What items they take on that are new & outcome focused are extremely critical.

We get to comment usually at the end of the Board meeting, time permitting, but the engagement stops there for the most part.

This issue that the Assessment Report highlights of accountability to the community MUST be addressed at a much higher level than blog posts!

Here’s the quote & we’ll go on from here with the points & issues it doesn’t address!

“Union Mission is a very important ally of the homeless authority,” Lee said. “All of us have seen people under the bridge and we want that to stop.”

Here are a couple of major points to consider:

  • How will they address people living under the bridge(s)?
  • Where’s the plan & is it a suitable plan?
  • How will Union Mission be involved in that plan for ending chronic homelessness?

We’ve laid out our plan & vision & are just waiting for engagement with the community to bring it to reality! Our plan & vision is not theirs, we’ll talk more about that later!

While they may be singing a tune about Union Mission being a “very important ally of the homeless authority” we know for a fact that both of these entities, charged with a unified CoC (Continuum of Care, a structure required by HUD to funnel dollars to our City), with a strategic plan (10 year plan to end homelessness) needing to be viewed as a set of marching orders, monitored for meeting targets & subject to change in almost real-time are seriously out of sync with the rest of the country on addressing chronic homelessness.

Housing First is NOT in their plans, stated publicly (in the video marks at 01:07:50, you can slide the bar to get there easily in the player) at a City Council Public Hearing (watch the video, don’t just read the minutes from the 11/1/2012 City Council Meeting!) by both the Interim Executive Director & Dr. Carter from Union Mission.

While a new “Strategic Plan” has been promised (in the 2014 timeframe as that’s when it’s supposed to be filed with the Feds from a HUD mandate), we can’t wait for that.

Neither can we wait for the Homeless Authority & their CoC “chronies” to build one “for” the community! We MUST build one WITH the entire community at the table [participating & committing resources to end homelessness, not in the next ten years (we’ve already had 10 years under the current plan to do that haven’t we?) but in five years maybe like Los Angeles has done]!

And a few other points (with less detail, as we’ve written about them elsewhere, links to some of these posts that deal with these issues are linked to below):

  • The Assessment Report (articles written about it in detail on the Savannah Morning News website & commented on there by us) MUST be taken seriously!
  • The recommendations made in the Assessment Report should be dealt with in whole & each one taken seriously as to how to implement it, but with the community deciding, not behind closed doors but out in the open!
  • We recommend a Uber-Taskforce that looks at the recommendations as a whole & makes its own “report” with recommendations about how to go about implementing the recommendations or a negotiated subset!
  • Housing First MUST be taken seriously by this community in the broadest sense possible
  • The Interfaith Taskforce should be engaged with as it develops for those items in the Assessment Report (& the new Ten Year Plan) that the Homeless Authority in its resulting structure cannot implement
  • We were encouraged by Mayor Pro-tem Van Johnson at our Exploratory Meeting to develop a single plan, community wide, taking into consideration everything we’re doing about homelessness in this community
  • The Mayor should decide on  a path that the City Council can support & be broad in her outreach to other communities & their Mayors who have taken various approaches (all should be considered) to deal with homelessness at the community level! 
  • And almost one last issue, Point in Time Counts (PIT) are NOT equitable to develop a total plan to end homelessness in a community, there are many under-served populations not counted by the traditional PIT approach. This is a recognized issue & problem by forward thinking advocates & those not invested in current organizations that provide homeless services – much more could be written about that topic!
  • Toxic Charities considerations must be addressed in our community – more about that later but we’ve covered that somewhat here on the blog already!
  • We must do a much more effective job of street level outreach, more can be written about that too!

So the links below share a broader perspective on the issues of helping the homeless out of their circumstance! Remember, the Captain of the Downtown Precinct, Captain Mike Wilkins, has stated many times, “It’s about behavior, not circumstance”!

Looking forward to engaging the Downtown Neighborhood Association tomorrow evening (Thursday, 2/21/2013, at 5:30pm at the Visitors Center on MLK & Liberty/ Louisville Road).

We’ll be fresh off of our presentation at Groves High School with a group of students who are learning a new way to do some critical thinking about issues in their community! And this class has chosen homelessness! That’s awesome & we look forward to that initiative expanding (the critical thinking thing in particular as it’s a master skill our youth MUST develop if they are to solve problems in this City & the world they will take over one day!

Stay tuned, we’ll write about the Groves experience, how we’re engaging the youth in a church group to do some amazing things with our homeless and other ways the faith community is expanding its role in getting out of the four-walled church to bring church out to His people! Won’t steal their thunder but we’ll be talking with the City this afternoon about the issue they’re willing to take on!

http://savannahnow.com/news/2013-02-19/savannahs-homeless-authority-balances-budget-cites-new-day

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About homelessnessinsavannah

Advocating for Homelessness Issues in Savannah, GA, so that we can educate, share experiences & generate a Christian understanding of the issues & people who experience, support & attempt to end homelessness in Savannah, GA or anywhere else we can share stories from or about...
This entry was posted in 0homeless, About, Action, Advocvacy, Awareness, Causes of Homelessness, Challenge, Chamber of Commerce, Children Homelessness, Christian Responses, Common good, compassionate response, Costs of homelessness, Criminalization of Homelessness, debate, End Chronic Homelessness, End Homelessness, Faith-based response, Family Homelessness, Georgia Alliance to End Homelessness, homeless, Homeless Memorial Day, Homelessness Revealed, Hope, Housing, Housing First, Housing Fund, Housing Trust, HUGS, inter-faith, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Panhandling, Poverty, Poverty Reduction, safety net, shelters, socent, social entreprener, social good, Street Ministries, Street Outreach, Taxpayers, Tourism Leadership Council, United Way, USICH, valueof0, Visit Savannah, Volunteer, Ways to Help, Women+Children Homelessness, Youth homelessness and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A new day for the homeless authority, maybe, but much more to address before they’re on track again! | Savannah’s homeless authority balances budget, cites new day | Savannahnow.com Mobile

  1. Pingback: SF gets a C for progress on homelessness – San Francisco Chronicle | Housing First for Savannah's Chronic Homeless

  2. beckyblanton says:

    I’m concerned about generic homelessness and the common belief that all homeless people are addicts, or mentally ill. People and organizations who deal with the homeless may deal with more addicts and mentally ill people, but the fact is, 80 to 85% of those who are homeless are capable of getting off the streets within 15 to 60 days with a little help.

    Treating ALL homeless people with the same criteria will result in what is already happening in many places — that 20% of the homeless get 80% of the resources available and so on. Many homeless people simply don’t have the financial resources, credit scores or jobs to find and afford affordable housing. Solutions like shared housing, improving your credit score, budgeting and money management and finding a job are inexpensive solutions to ending their homelessness, but we don’t see much of that.

    The only answer to resolving homelessness is NOT to throw more money at the problem. It’s to identify groups of people who don’t have housing and assign different programs to them. The mentally ill, alcoholics and addicts need “housing first” but those who are not addicts need affordable housing period. What’s keeping them couch surfing and living with family and friends is often just a down payment, rent and deposits and a job to make sure they pay those bills from there on out. Budgeting, gambling, mismanagement and financial issues need to be addressed after that.

    The mentally ill aren’t going to “get better.” They need to be taken care of. When the government shut down mental health facilities and kicked them out decades ago they created the homeless problem. As a society we need to have a place where our mentally ill can go and received treatment, housing etc. Addicts and alcoholics need housing first, but they also need to commit to change. Giving someone a place to continue to abuse while refusing to address their addiction isn’t helping. It’s hurting. The truth is, you can’t save everyone. Trying to hurts those who could be saved.

    Finally, those who need food, shelter and a job, training and help getting back into their own home are usually the least expensive to help. They’re motivated, willing to work and ready to work but are overwhelmed with the day-to-day struggles of living and surviving on the streets. Creating a safe evening parking situation for van and car dwellers (along with secure showers, baths and laundry facilities in an adjacent building would help too. Computer access, counselors, classes, running clubs, and support groups would go a long way to getting these homeless back into their own homes again.

    Find coders and software companies willing to work on an app for the homeless and those who work with them that lets employers post jobs, housing agencies post housing, and other agencies post resources and information about transportation, shopping etc.

    Even having a building where you can install lockers (use a drug dog to ensure it doesn’t become a drug drop and require ID and a case worker to get a locker) for the homeless to store things like clothing, valuable and canned food, clean socks, mail, whatever they have.

    There are so many things that can be done, and done cheaply, that would make all the difference in the world to many homeless people. The biggest changes could and should come through changing zoning laws, allowing for the construction of small (100 square feet or less) homes, or even box-car shelters that can provide a small “bedroom” for up to six people and a bathroom, showers and a kitchen (and can be stacked on top of each other). There are are so many options, yet so much opposition. Why?

    • Great comments Becky! You have great insight that presents workable solutions & ones that aren’t being considered in many communities!

      We do view Housing First as a model actually for multiple populations that you describe. It was “designed” mostly with the chronic, street or tent city dwelling homeless populations in mind.

      We are adapting it here in Savannah to multiple populations that are a) under-served & b) those where it takes too long for “regular” housing to become available either because they are required to do 90 days in a shelter (although they are finally addressing that in one particular providers housing stock) or there needs to be a community based model fro recovery & support while addressing one’s issues that precipitated this incident of homelessness!

      We are also calling it Housing First Savannah for a reason. To engage the faith community in building the housing & to provide innovative services for renewal, restoration & recovery!

      We are not going to deliver our housing without proper services! They are unique we feel.

      We are approaching the creation of that housing uniquely in two ways. First, we will be using shipping containers to design & be the building material of choice & second, we will create our own jobs for our people to build that housing. And even more interesting, we will be creating an new “industry” with “factory” to take that model of housing to other communities!

      So, long story short, there is an awful lot going on in Savannah with the homeless! We are reaching a tipping point & the community can & needs to come together outside of the CoC unless the Homeless Authority can get its act together!

      We are actively engaged with the City who is coming along with a deeper role so it’s looking god right now for bringing the broader community together on their role in ending homelessness!

      Thanks much for your interest & investment in time to put together that response! Will get the pearls of wisdom out of it & share once again your awesome Ted talk with the community!

      • beckyblanton says:

        I am a huge supporter of “housing first.” I also believe there are two kinds of housing. When I was homeless I stood in lines with the addicts and alcoholics who tried to school me on how to get free housing, how to lie, how to game the system. They bragged about getting housing so all they’d have to do was drink, play cards, screw, do drugs and watch television (these were men in their 30’s on up, fully capable of working, but not wanting to). I saw this a lot. You can house someone in a dorm room, or in a secure housing situation with privacy. If you get them off the street, safe, warm, fed and in a situation where they are then able to address their addiction, then that’s what they should do, otherwise you’re hurting people who would benefit from the housing. Getting an addict a one-bedroom apartment and visiting them once a month to hand them a check and their groceries is unacceptable to me. The bible says, “He who doesn’t eat, doesn’t work.” and I believe that. Working can be the work of getting sober. If you run a faith-based help organization, then it should follow biblical principles – which are tried, true and proven.

        I see an “entitlement” attitude that says even if you’re poor, broke, addicted you’re entitled to a $30,000 car, a four-bedroom, four-bath apartment and a monthly subsidy check. No one is entitled to that. If you’re poor, broke and addicted you’re not entitled to anything. A compassionate society doing God’s will can provide food, clothing, water and a roof over one’s head…and a measure of security as they’re able, but part of the reason people don’t want to help the homeless is because they feel they’re pouring money down a hole. The myth that it’s possible to get people off the street, into housing, employment and sobriety by throwing money at the problem is just that – a myth. The homeless have to bring all they can to it and all parties have to accept that it is not easy and that it’s not a financial issue, it’s a spiritual, emotional, mental and personal issue as well. Many of the chronically homeless don’t want to get off the streets. Many of the mentally ill don’t want off the streets. Why force them to leave where they’re comfortable? Provide what they do want: Bathrooms, showers, food, computer access and clean clothes or a laundromat and let them live in the woods or wherever.

        More and more homeless are sexual predators, criminals and those on the run from the law. They’re a small percentage, but in a community working for the safety of those in it, there needs to be a process for identifying and separating those from families, children and the functionally mentally ill. It’s not a simple problem. I get so frustrated with those who think the homeless are just bedraggled puppies who only need a bowl of warm milk and a bed and suddenly they’ll turn into model citizens. They won’t. They’re complex human beings with mental challenges, lives of poor decisions and abuse, frustration, fear and greed – which comes from having nothing and fearing they’ll lose what they do have. These are people who will steal, fight and hurt to survive. The chronically homeless are a different breed…I say that as a former police officer, as a journalist and as someone who lived on the streets for a year and a half. There’s a reason that even Mark Horvath is reluctant to enter some homeless communities for fear for his own safety. He, like me, knows that the homeless have darker issues and can’t be saved with something as quick and easy as a shower and some clean clothes. The damage to the soul, mind and heart goes much deeper. We aren’t rescuing stray cats. We’re healing human beings.

      • You definitely got it right sister!

        Appreciate that level of honesty & forthrightness!

        You are quick on the trigger too! So I know it’s coming right from where it should be, the heart & a great sense of reality!

        Yes, we realize that what we’re putting together isn’t for all the homeless out there!

        The other thing about the services model that’s embodied in a perfect partner we’ve found (HUGS, Head Up Guidance Services) is that we can’t do more for them than they’re willing to do for themselves.

        BTW, she is fully committed to housing & specifically Housing First & is our partner on the Housing First Savannah group!

        I’ve offered counseling from this program to those we deal with regularly in the street ministries & many never get to it because they really don’t want it, yet!

        We do realize that in some ways we are in a position to give hope to the hopeless though. So we plod along, looking for those who are ready for the change they need & are tired of being tired!

        We fully believe in no burned bridges & the breaking point is what I said, when they’re not willing to do for themselves! We are not enablers nor do we participate in pity parties. But when they’re ready we are too!

        In fact, we have had cases of those who didn’t get that when they entered services but quickly got it because of the way it’s delivered & they fully engaged, evcen top the point in going & getting just enough work to pay the miniscule charges for these services ($10 1/2 hour, $15 full hour)!

        So you are right on with your understandings! Your broad experience has given you this valuable perspective! We are trying to get Savannah engaged with these realities!

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