Detroit’s focus on supportive housing drives down homelessness 15 percent

Detroit’s focus on supportive housing drives down homelessness 15 percent
May 9, 2018 Michigan Chronicle

The number of people in Detroit experiencing homelessness continued a steady decline in 2017, dropping 15% over the previous year. The reduction is credited to the “Housing First” approach to homelessness, which provides permanent supportive housing with wraparound services to ensure success, as opposed to temporary shelter. Detroit added 143 permanent supportive housing units in 2017 and expects to add another 300 over the next five years.

This data comes from the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count of people who were homeless on one night in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park, and is supported by annual data tracked through the Homeless Management System or HMIS. The PIT count was conducted in late January by a team of 200 volunteers and staff from the cities’ homelessness service providers.

“This sustained reduction in the size of our homeless population is an encouraging sign and suggests that as the city comes back, conditions are improving for our most vulnerable residents. But there’s still more work to be done,” said Arthur Jemison, director of housing and revitalization for the City of Detroit. “We are going to continue our strategy of moving away from temporary shelter and toward permanent supportive housing to lift more Detroiters out of homelessness.”

All homeless populations experiencing a downward trend

The 2017 PIT count found that 1,769 people were experiencing homelessness in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park, down 15% from last year, when the number was 2,078.

“Many of Detroit’s homeless service providers and outreach teams have embraced the new emphasis on housing first and permanent housing as a way to end homelessness. The 2018 PIT count is reflective of their hard work. We could not be prouder of their progress,” said Tasha Gray, Executive Director of Continuum of Care.

The chronically homeless population, those who experience homelessness for longer than a year or more than four times over three years also dropped 11% over the last year.

A targeted effort to decrease homelessness among the unsheltered and the chronically homeless through outreach, engagements and pathways to permanent housing that begin in early 2017 yielded the following results when comparing 2017-2018 data:

• A 28% decrease in the total unsheltered population

• A 36% decrease in the chronically homeless, unsheltered population

• Homelessness among veterans decreased by 4% over the last year.

More Permanent Supportive Housing units open and on the way

The decline in those experiencing homelessness reflects efforts by the City of Detroit and the Detroit Continuum of Care to move from programs that manage homelessness, like transitional housing, to those that end it. Permanent supportive housing removes barriers to housing by providing housing first with various social services attached to ensure homeless residents have continued support as they transition to housing.

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