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How Phoenix Ended Chronic Homelessness Among Our VeteransHow Phoenix Ended Chronic Homelessness Among Our Veterans<div class="ExternalClass62B6311F8A5A4CD9A6927983B81A6A57"><p>​When campaigning for office, Mayor Greg Stanton pledged that tackling Phoenix’s homelessness problem would be one of his top priorities. A city is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable, he said, and getting people off the streets and into stable homes and the workforce when possible is a boost for the local economy.</p><p>Under Stanton’s leadership, Phoenix first took aim at ending the chronic homelessness epidemic among the local veteran community. The state Department of Veterans’ Services estimates that one in five homeless adults in Arizona is a veteran – more than twice the national average.</p><p>Stanton, who has been a part of anti-homelessness efforts his entire adult life, knew that no single organization could accomplish the goal on its own – so Phoenix joined forces with the state and federal governments, the business and faith community, as well as several non-profit organizations to combat chronic homelessness among veterans with a united front. Lifted by President Barack Obama’s goal to end chronic veteran homelessness by 2015, Phoenix used a combination of federal, state and local funds to implement the highly successful "housing first" strategy.</p><p>Stanton believes that the most important lesson from the success of the "Phoenix model" is that it can be replicated in any community in America. Phoenix may have been the first city in the country to end chronic homelessness among veterans, but already, it isn’t the most recent to do so. Salt Lake City, a community Phoenix has worked in partnership with for many years, also <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/mayor-declares-end-vet-homelessness" target="_blank">accomplished this incredible feat</a>.Shaun Donovan, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, said the two community’s success "is a powerful example to show how government works."</p><p> <strong>What is the current state in Phoenix?</strong></p><p>On December 19, 2013, Phoenix’s efforts successfully placed a roof over the head of every chronically homeless veteran – just in time for Christmas. Although a few veterans remain in bridge or temporary housing, all chronically homeless veterans will be in a permanent place to call their own by the <a href="http://www.arizonastanddown.org/" target="_blank">Arizona StandDown event</a>on February 14, 2014.</p><p> <strong>What does it mean to be chronically homeless? </strong></p><p>There is an important distinction between an individual who is homeless and one who is "chronically homeless." A chronically homeless person is an unaccompanied adult with a disabling condition who has been homeless for a year or more, or an individual who has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness within three years.</p><p>The chronically homeless veterans who Phoenix helped were on the streets for an average of eight years. Some veterans had been homeless for as many as 15 years.</p><p>Chronic homelessness is a serious and costly epidemic. "Chronically homeless represent approximately 20 percent of all people experiencing homelessness but they consume 80 percent of all resources used," according to a study by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University. This segment of the population often cycles between homelessness, emergency rooms and hospitals, jails, and other institutional care, and often have a complex medical problem, a serious mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and/or alcohol or drug addiction.</p><p> <strong>What made Phoenix’s effort different from past efforts – and ultimately successful?</strong></p><p>Phoenix’s effort is different from past efforts in two key ways: first, it united those involved behind a single effort rather than tackle the problem with a scattershot approach; and second, it used a "housing first" strategy that recognizes that housing stability greatly improves the success of other services provided to homeless individuals.</p><p>In an unprecedented effort, the City of Phoenix, the state Veterans’ Services Department, the federal government, local businesses, the faith community, and a wide-range of non-profits including the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness united its effort to combat chronic homelessness among veterans behind a single organization: <a href="http://www.azceh.org/project-h3-vets" target="_blank">Project H3 Vets</a>. This umbrella group coordinates all partners and resources in an effort that has earned national recognition for its success in aligning so many diverse organizations on the issue.</p><p>Project H3’s unified approach helped gain a better understanding of the most successful strategies as it included a wide range of leaders in the same room for training and planning. Because of those meetings, Project H3 leaders quickly identified what strategies would not work. For example, in the past, some groups that work with the homeless community have demanded that individuals tackle the underlying causes of homelessness – such as vanquish behavioral health challenges including drug or alcohol addiction – before finding individuals a home.</p><p>Although this approach worked for some, its success rate was generally not very high – and national retention rates using this strategy average merely 60 percent. Too many who desperately needed help weren’t getting it.</p><p>Phoenix and Project H3 took a different approach called "housing first" which has helped Phoenix build a94 percent retention rate among the chronically homeless veteran population.</p><p> <strong>What is "housing first?"</strong></p><p>"Housing first" takes the approach the name suggests: its emphasis it to place a homeless individual in a stable living situation first, which makes it easier for organizations to then provide services and address the underlying cause of each person’s homelessness.</p><p>The housing first strategy operates on the premise that it is more effective to secure social services for the chronically homeless when they first have the stability of housing, whether it be bridge, temporary or permanent. With that stability as a foundation, our partner organizations can then help individual veterans get back on their feet.</p><p>Using this strategy, Permanent Supportive Housing is offered to chronically homeless veterans in a streamlined process that removes unnecessary barriers to entry and participation.</p><p>Housing first program characteristics:</p><ul><li>Housing is permanent – that is, without time limits</li><li>Prioritization is based on need, vulnerability, length of homelessness</li><li>A scattered site model that provides choice for the client</li><li>The tenant holds the lease and rights of tenancy, and participants must pay rent and comply with the lease and community rules</li><li>No expectation of sobriety, but participation in specific services is a condition of housing promotes recovery-oriented principles</li><li>Participants are re-housed if they lose housing – two, three, four or more times</li><li>Decision-making process is data-driven</li></ul><p> <strong><br>How did Phoenix identify chronically homeless veterans?</strong></p><p>Phoenix identified 222 chronically homeless veterans through careful and methodical street counts that began in 2011.</p><p>Project H3 Vets and hundreds of volunteers – including Stanton – participated in the counts, which aim to interview, engage, and identify chronically homeless veterans living on the streets and in the shelter system.</p><p>In addition to street count efforts, community partners – such as the VA Hospital, shelters, Arizona StandDown, and <a href="http://www.vsuw.org/" target="_blank">Valley of the Sun United Way</a> – identified and referred chronically homeless veterans to Project H3 Vets, which expanded the identification process and facilitated quicker action.</p><p>Project H3 Vets tracked and guided each of the 222 veterans through the housing and services process.</p><p> <strong>Who works directly with homeless veterans to bring them in from the street?</strong></p><p>Perhaps the most important work in the entire effort is performed by a group of dedicated individuals called Navigators who work on the front lines of Phoenix’s fight to end chronic homelessness.</p><p>Many times, these chronic homelessness veterans – again, who had been on the streets for an average of eight years – were reluctant to even accept services for one reason or another. In these cases, it was important for Project H3 to build a relationship of trust between the effort and the homeless individual. Navigators played that important role for the effort. These individuals begin to engage with veterans during street counts and develop relationships from there. Often formerly homeless or veterans themselves, Navigators display a special skill to gain confidence of a person living on the streets, and encouraging individuals to accept the available support. That process is frequently slow and requires a long series visits or interactions to build the trust necessary to get a veteran into permanent housing.</p><p>Navigators become a point of contact for housing and services, and eventually much more. They serve as a support system for each veteran during difficult transitions, help move veterans into new apartments, and even follow through with job applications and workforce training.</p><p>Support for Project H3 Navigators is provided by <a href="http://communitybridgesaz.org/" target="_blank">Community Bridges</a> and <a href="https://www.sbhservices.org/" target="_blank">Southwest Behavioral Health</a>.</p><p> <strong>What are the costs of homelessness compared to the costs of housing?</strong></p><p>There are significant indirect costs associated with chronic homelessness. A national study of the issue found that each year, the average chronically homeless person will use an ambulance three times, visit the emergency room three times, and will be hospitalized twice. Combined with additional strain on our local jail and criminal justice system, each chronically homeless individual could cost more than $40,000 each year in taxpayer dollars, according to a 2008 Morrison Institute report.</p><p>Comparatively, housing vouchers, subsidized rent, and supportive services for one person was roughly $605, or $7,260 per year – less than one-fifth the cost of a chronically homeless individual remaining on the streets.</p><p> <strong>How are Phoenix’s efforts funded?</strong></p><p>Phoenix used more than $6.5 million in federal grants to fight homelessness in 2013, and a majority of the Council approved an additional $1.8 million in city general funds to help end chronic homelessness among veterans.</p><p>As a result of the Obama Administration’s priority to end chronic homelessness, the federal departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs have awarded millions of grant dollars to help local governments and organizations in their efforts. Phoenix could not have mobilized as quickly and efficiently as it did without such significant financial support – and the federal government’s continued support is critical to future efforts.</p><p> <strong>Are there still homeless veterans in Phoenix?</strong></p><p>Yes. Although Phoenix’s efforts have reduced the chronically homelessness veterans population to zero, some veterans may still experience short-lived or non-recurring stints of homelessness, or could become chronically homeless in the future. <br>Phoenix and Project H3 Vets will remain vigilant to identify new chronically homeless veterans and make sure that each one gets the housing and services they need to break the cycle of homelessness.</p><p> <strong>What are the next steps?</strong></p><p>Although Phoenix has reached an important milestone, its work is far from complete. Together, Phoenix and Project H3 Vets will work to monitor veterans who are at risk of becoming chronically homeless, provide appropriate services and resources for veterans in temporary housing or shelters, and help those who are ready and able to work find quality jobs.</p><p>Two programs are key to these efforts – the annual Arizona StandDown and Phoenix’s H.E.R.O. Initiative.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.arizonastanddown.org/" target="_blank">Arizona StandDown</a> is an annual three-day event that seeks to offer a helping hand to local veterans battling with homelessness. The event brings in homeless and at-risk veterans, and connects them with services ranging from VA HealthCare, mental health services, clothing, meals, emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing, IDs and drivers licenses, court services, and legal aid, showers, haircuts and myriad other services and resources. Each year, the Arizona StandDown is held at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds.</p><p>After taking office as mayor, Stanton launched the <a href="/econdev/hero">H.E.R.O. Initiative</a>, a program designed to address the high unemployment rate among veterans. H.E.R.O – which stands for hire, educate, recruit, organize – is a Phoenix effort to work with a coalition of community stakeholders and employers to host "H.E.R.O. Hiring Events" that connect local employers with veterans looking for jobs who meet that employer’s needs.</p><p>H.E.R.O. Hiring Events are far more involved than a typical job fair. Through these smaller and more individualized events, the H.E.R.O. team does extensive groundwork in advance of the events to "pre-match" veteran job seekers and employers to increase job placement opportunities. Prior to each hiring event, Phoenix offers a series of free workshops for veterans to assist with resume translation from military to civilian language, interview skills, and general career readiness.</p><p> <strong>Where can I read more about Phoenix’s efforts?</strong></p><ul><li> <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/12/20/phoenix-arizona-becomes-first-city-reduce-number-chronically-homeless-veterans-livin" target="_blank">White House </a></li><li> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/16/us/program-to-end-homelessness-among-veterans-hits-milestone-in-arizona.html?_r=0" target="_blank">New York Times</a></li><li> <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/12/20/phoenix-says-its-the-first-city-to-end-chronic-homelessness-among-veterans/" target="_blank">Washington Post </a></li><li> <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/media/cinematic/video/4799879/how-phoenix-ended-homelessness-among-vets-capital-download/" target="_blank">USA Today </a></li><li> <a href="http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2013/12/can-city-really-end-homelessness/7958/" target="_blank">Atlantic Cities</a></li><li> <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/12/23/3099911/phoenix-homeless/" target="_blank">Think Progress</a></li><li> <a href="http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/20140113housing-homeless-veterans-success.html" target="_blank">Arizona Republic</a></li></ul><p> <strong>How can I help?</strong></p><p>If you know someone who you meets the description of a chronically homeless veteran in the Phoenix Metro Area, please refer them to the Community Resource and Referral Center (CRCC) at:</p><p style="text-align:center;">1125 West Jackson Street<br>Phoenix, Arizona 85007<br>Office Located Inside Lodestar Day Resource Center.<br>Hours: Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.<br><br>HUD-VASH walk-in hours:<br>Tuesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to Noon</p><p style="text-align:center;">Call 602-463-2432 or 602-568-7843 for more information.</p><p>If a chronically homeless individual is unwilling or unable to connect with the CRRC, please contact the <a href="http://www.azceh.org/" target="_blank">Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness</a> at 602-340-9393.</p></div>1/28/2014 7:00:00 PM