The rate of homelessness in America has increased for the first time in seven years, according to HUD data recently released. The lack of affordable housing in West Coast cities like Los Angeles and Seattle is a major factor, here. And big East Coast cities like New York aren’t seeing much progress against a problem that has long felt intractable.
But in some places around the country, major strides are being made towards decreasing chronic homelessness at the local level. And philanthropy has played a key role in such efforts. In fact, as we’ve been reporting, there’s growing optimism among funders right now who feel like they’ve finally cracked the code of helping chronically homeless people, many of whom struggle with a combination of challenges that include substance abuse, mental health and a lack of job skills. A key to success with these folks turns out to be a combination of permanent housing and access to the range of social services they need to get back on their feet.
For example, we recently looked at Orlando, Florida, which has been able to reduce homelessness by nearly 50 percent over the past few years through a strategy of providing permanent supportive housing. The CEO of the Central Florida Foundation, which has played a key role in this effort, has said that licking homelessness is “fundable, doable and measurable.”
But CFF is not alone is making gains against homelessness in the Southeast. Heading a bit further north, a collective effort funded by the Phillips Foundation has achieved an even greater rate of homelessness reduction. Chronic homelessness in Guilford County, North Carolina, has dropped from 143 cases down to just three.