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VOL. 127 | NO. 198 | Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Campaign Targets City’s Homelessness

By Bill Dries

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For three days last week, a group of volunteers assembled Downtown before dawn at Calvary Episcopal Church and from there spread out across the county looking for the homeless.

Events like Homeless Connect earlier this year by the Community Alliance for the Homeless have now been expanded to include this month’s registry seeking those among the homeless who are the most vulnerable.

(Daily News File Photo: Ben Fant)

The new effort is an addition to the twice-a-year “connect,” or census, in which the local “Community Alliance For The Homeless Inc.” tries to get an idea of the general population of homeless in the county and offer a wide range of services.

This effort was to determine those most in need of housing and medical attention and support services.

“This is really focused on creating a systematic restructuring to how we place people into housing, which is by vulnerability – those most likely to die without our help,” said alliance director Katie Kitchin. “These aren’t just ideas that people might get sick. They are actually getting sick all the time. They do much better when they are housed.

The effort in Shelby County is part of the national “100,000 Homes” effort. The name of the effort is the goal across the nation by July 2013. The housing includes support services and case management that is already secured. With that in place, Kitchin says those placed in housing are more likely to make the transition away from living on the streets on a permanent basis.

A total of 259 homeless citizens took the survey locally. Kitchin estimates from past census efforts and “connects” that the number is “a large proportion” of those in the most critical need.

In the next few weeks, the alliance will work with those surveyed to verify medical conditions they self reported. But 135 of the 259 were considered “vulnerable” by the self-reporting standards. Of the 259, 130 said they had “serious medical concerns.” Mental health problems were reported by 140 and substance abuse problems by 197.

The average length of homelessness for those in the vulnerable category was nine years. And the average age was 49.

Eighty percent of those in the vulnerable category said they slept outside year round.

The Shelby County effort has a goal of raising $100,000 to go toward the goal of equipping and outfitting the housing that is found for those placed in housing. The city of Memphis committed to $25,000 toward that goal.

The housing is already being rounded up. Two of those judged the most vulnerable were placed in apartments near each other Monday, Oct. 8, just hours after Kitchin announced the survey results.

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