The Plan To End Homelessness Is Making Progress
By Reneka Toler
An Action Plan to End Homelessness in Memphis within the next decade has already reported progress in getting people off the streets and into shelters.
The plan, implemented by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark Lutrell, was unveiled in January, and is designed to help approximate 1,600 homeless people in the city. Memphis City Council approved $250,000 to begin the plan.
The major goals of this plan consists of preventing and ending chronic homelessness in five years, ending family and youth homelessness in 10 years, providing a path out of homelessness for all within 10 years and ending veterans’ homelessness in five years in Memphis/ Shelby County.
“Homelessness is not a single issue, but a result of failures in the economy,” says Brad Watkins, organizing director of Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, which is a non-profit organization that interacts with communities through a non-violent action.
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, was one of the main advocates in creating this plan. It offered basic solutions to eliminate the causes of homelessness and poverty. One of its recent accomplishments involved the recruitment of 80 volunteers to assist the City of Memphis’ count of homeless population in 2010-2011.
Watkins says the 10 year-action plan is a federal mandate by Housing and Urban Development, which makes it more competitive. It is going to move the country forward and the people to readiness.”
“Not only Memphis, but the country as a whole is 20 years behind, so I think the plan is excellent and it’s a start to end the homelessness,” said Watkins said.
Throughout the plan, studies show comparison in the count of homeless from 2002-2010. Memphis and Shelby County endured a 4 percent reduction in those people, who experienced homelessness.
Katie Kitchin, a consultant of Division of Housing and Community Development says the main focus of the plan is to reduce homelessness within 5 to 10 years.
“The plan is a new approach in the community and change is the biggest challenge,” says Kitchin.
The most recent studies indicate that ‘transitioning of housing’ begins the first step in the homeless stage.
Adjusting the Homeless Housing Capacity is one of the main strategies in Goal One, which the city is making progress to meet.
Watkins says the Housing First Model started the process to help the homeless people recover. It provides Permanent Supporting Housing units by 391 and reduces transitioning housing by 300 units.
Also, 3.3 million dollars is distributed from the City of Memphis for funding of homeless shelters.
Shelters like Memphis Union Mission and others provide the homeless with their basic needs, and accept donations to prevent them from the homeless path. As a result it serves meals to hungry men and woman 365 days a year.
The Community Alliance for the Homeless, proposed the Project Homeless Connect, a major event that was held earlier this year to reach out to the homeless. It was a jump-start of the new plan making progress. Different types of housing, health, and employment assistance was available.
“We hope that this event helps break down the barriers that keep people homeless,” Kitchin said.
Due to the 20 percent increase in jobless rate this year, 241 individuals received employment assistance at the event.
The National Coalition for the Homeless says ending homelessness will require closing the gaps between incomes and housing costs.
Finally, with the enforcement of the panhandling law, homelessness has shown to decrease.
The city ordinance says panhandling in Downtown is illegal outside of specific zones. Any type of activity will result in jail time or monetary fines.
Partners for the Homelessness recommends not giving money to the panhandlers, but donating it charities and organizations, which can better assist them.