By:Dan Ferrell, Strategic Director, 10 Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness, United Way of the Cape Fear Area
In a recent WECT News story, a group in Southport announced plans to build a homeless shelter in Brunswick County. While new resources are welcome, they should be utilized in a coordinated manner.
Cape Fear's response to homelessness is coordinated by the Tri County Homeless Interagency Council continuum of providers and the 10 Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness – an initiative managed by United Way since 2008.
The 10 Year Plan advocates for evidence-based best practices. A central best practice for ending homelessness is permanent supportive housing – getting homeless people into rental housing rapidly and wrapping services around them. Since studies show permanent supportive housing is significantly more cost-effective than sheltering, federal and state governments are no longer authorizing dollars for new shelters.
We recently completed our annual count of the homeless. Unsheltered homeless, plus those in shelters and transitional housing were counted. A total of 322 were identified - down 50% from the 628 identified in 2007 - before the 10 Year Plan started. Of that 322, only 63 were identified as disabled chronically homeless - down 70% from 2007. Those decreases can be attributed to collaboration between Tri-HIC and the 10 Year Plan in implementing some highly- rewarding best practices.
So in Brunswick: Rather than create a shelter, why not convert a distressed apartment complex to permanent supportive housing? Wraparound services could then stabilize those previously homeless people in real housing. Now that would be a best practice.