The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs have confirmed Mobile and Baldwin counties have ended homelessness among veterans in partnership with Housing First, Inc., a local nonprofit that works to eliminate and prevent homelessness in the two counties. Housing First received notice of the confirmation earlier this month from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, which also recognized the accomplishment in a letter dated Sept. 11, 2015 to Mayor Sandy Stimpson, who recently signed the Mayor’s challenge to end veteran homelessness in the City of Mobile.
The confirmation comes after Housing First announced it had achieved Functional Zero for veteran homelessness in Mobile and Baldwin counties in May, which is before the national deadline of December 2015. Functional Zero is a designation attained when all known homeless persons in a specific population, in this case veterans, meet the definition of homelessness and are housed within 10 days of being identified as such. In a three-year period, Housing First has helped more than 650 homeless veterans find shelter in Mobile and Baldwin counties.
“We use a model of getting folks housed first and working on whatever their issues are once we get them housed,” Eric Jefferson, CEO of Housing First and The Homeless Coalition, said.
Mobile has become the first city of its size in the country to reach “functionally zero” for homeless veterans and the chronically homeless, those who’ve been consistently homeless for a year or more, which was achieved in June 2014. Jefferson largely attributes Housing First’s recent successes to the implementation of a coordinated assessment process in August 2014, allowing service providers in Mobile and Baldwin counties to track the homeless population and make referrals through a centralized database, which consolidates waiting lists and provides real-time program availability for services. Housing First is the first in the state to implement the coordinated assessment, enabling the organization to house the homeless within three days.
“Tt’s not just about getting them housed,” Jefferson said. “It’s about moving them to self-sufficiency so that they don’t need our services anymore. So with our chronic homeless over the past two years, we’ve moved 40 percent of those clients out of our program and into self-sufficiency, where they are paying their own rent, paying their own bills. They are followed for about a year after they leave the program to make sure they stay (stable) and housed.”