This winter has been a wild one, including a record spell of bitter cold. For homeless individuals, the cold posed a threat to life and limb.
Southwest Solutions is one of several organizations with a homeless outreach team, called PATH. In addition to their day shifts, these teams rotate working nights in the city. They reach out to homeless persons, encourage them to go to warming centers and shelters, provide needed resources, and offer information about applying for housing.
Fox 2 News with Southwest Solutions’ PATH team as it checks on unsheltered individuals.
During the two weeks of record cold in January, two media outlets accompanied our PATH team as it made its rounds. The two stories, one on Michigan Public Radio and the other on Fox 2, really capture the dedicated work of the team.
Point In Time Count
The annual Point In Time (PIT) Count occurred on the last day of January. Three teams from Southwest Solutions joined with many other volunteers to canvass the city and survey unsheltered individuals. Arthur Jemison, Detroit’s Director of Housing and Revitalization, spoke at the PIT Count event, and he detailed the progress Detroit is making in the campaign to end homelessness. The homeless system in the city housed 324 chronically homeless individuals last year, Jemison said. In addition, one third of the unsheltered individuals identified in the 2017 PIT Count were placed in permanent housing; and last year’s PIT Count showed a 20% reduction in the total number of people sleeping on the streets or in shelters from 2015. “The only real solution to homelessness is permanent housing,” Jemison told the PIT Count volunteers.
Housing First Model
This solution is based on the Housing First model, and this model is the guiding principle of the homeless system in the city, called the Coordinated Assessment Model (CAM Detroit
). Housing First means providing permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and also connecting them with the supports they need so they can remain housed and rebuild their lives. Housing First is mandated by HUD because it has been shown to be the most effective model to address homelessness. Southwest Solutions is the lead agency to implement the CAM Detroit. We are passionate advocates of Housing First.
Khalidah Byrd with her three children and her partner in their home.
Khalidah Byrd is a great example of how Housing First and permanent supportive housing make the key difference. Khalidah lost custody of her three children when the family became homeless. Through the CAM, her housing needs were assessed, and she obtained a rental home through a “rapid rehousing” program. She then secured a housing voucher. One of our caseworkers was assigned to help Khalidah get the services and resources to maintain housing and a household. With stable housing, Khalidah worked diligently to regain custody of her kids. The family is now reunited and is doing well.
is another example. Burney had been homeless for years after losing his job at a factory. Five years ago, Burney received a housing voucher and moved into an apartment in southwest Detroit. Not only has he kept his housing, with the help and counsel of his caseworker, but he is also working full time as a delivery driver.
Changes in the Homeless-Serving System
There are countless success stories that constitute the real and documented progress the CAM Detroit has made to reduce homelessness. The CAM is an evolving system, and we are always striving to improve access, services and outcomes. Recently, the CAM announced
changes to better connect individuals and families experiencing homelessness with housing programs. Rather than using a Call Center, individuals and families are now directed to go to designated locations or “Access Points” to assist them with their housing needs. We are confident that this in-person model will be more responsive and effective, and the early results are already bearing this out.
The ultimate and ambitious goal is to end homelessness in our community. We not only believe in Housing First, but that housing is a fundamental human right and the precondition to pursue all rights and freedoms.
Director of Housing Resource Center