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Home arrow Language & Literature arrow The open door : homelessness and severe mental illness in the era of community treatment
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Washington, D.C.

"Homeless No More: A Strategy for Ending Homelessness in Washington, D.C., by 2014” was developed during the administration of Mayor Anthony A. Williams in 2004, and continued through the mayoral administrations of Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray. The plan addressed ending chronic homelessness but also focused on the development of affordable housing for the working poor and homeless families. A goal of the plan was to create at least 6,000 new housing units over ten years, some with supportive services for people whose homelessness has been chronic and sustained.

Laura Zeilinger led the District’s implementation of the ten-year plan goals and strategies.

An initial effort was a survey added to the annual point-in-time count to gather additional information on how the city could best meet the needs of chronically homeless people by leveraging existing resources. The survey facilitated a better match of the needs of chronically homeless individuals with community-based resources. Four groups were identified: people with HIV/AIDS, the elderly, victims of violence and violent offenders, and people in need of behavioral health or addiction services. Results of the survey led to the conclusion that specific programs combined with housing could address the underlying problems associated with homelessness. The provider community was then engaged to prioritize housing and services for people with the greatest vulnerability and the longest duration of homelessness. Additional funding for permanent supportive housing, obtained from the federal and District of Columbia governments, facilitated housing placement using a housing-first approach. Scatter-site housing in community apartments funded with vouchers was the most frequently used housing paradigm, since existing apartments could be quickly and easily obtained, obviating the need for long-term new construction.

The election of Mayor Vincent Gray in 2011 led to changes in the plan to end homelessness, with greater emphasis on homelessness in families and veterans. Although chronic homelessness increased during the peak of the recession of 2008 (Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, 2010), the annual point-in-time count revealed that chronic homelessness was reduced from 2,093 people in 2011 to 1,593 in 2015, a reduction of 24 percent (Chapman, 2015).

 
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