Virginia Homeless Rate Declines

November 30, 2012

Online Story by DeeVa Payne
Video Story by Michael Curtis
VCU InSight

RICHMOND, Va. — In early November Gov. Bob McDonnell announced that the homeless rate in Virginia has declined by eight percent since 2010.

The data, collected by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, also reported that the homeless rate for families declined 11 percent and the rate for chronic homelessness dropped 36 percent.

Kelly King, Executive Director of Homeward, a planning and coordinating organization for the homeless services in the greater Richmond area, says she is confident that programs will reach the Governor’s goal to reduce homelessness by 15 percent by next year.

“There are some pretty significant shifts in the provision of homeless services across the state, particularly for families and for the chronically homeless, or those on the streets, and they do work,” she said.

Freedom House, a nonprofit that provides food, shelter, and support for the Richmond Homeless, is one of the programs that have shifted strategies.

The Chief Operating Officer of Freedom House, Jay Patrick says the decline of homeless makes complete sense.

“Our continuum of care, which is all of the organizations that serve homelessness— and it’s headed up by Homeward have been working together very well with a strategic plan to end homelessness in 10 years,” he said.

The plan, which is currently in year 5 of execution, has shifted from a model of managing homelessness to a model of ending homelessness through transitional shelters.

Freedom House offers an 18-month “step up” housing program for men and women to help them transition to self-sufficiency.

Residents of Sean’s Place share a community kitchen and have their own private bedrooms. They also work with a case manager and are required to work full-time or work part-time while enrolled in an educational program.

Patrick says the homeless rate is going to continue to drop because programs like what the Freedom House offers creates an army of advocates that want to end homelessness.

“When someone comes to a program like Freedom House and they complete it successfully then a lot of those individuals want to work in homeless services,” Patrick said.

King says it is strategies like the one offered by Freedom House that really make a difference.

“We don’t just have to say, ‘oh, there are always going to be homeless people.’ These are our neighbors, so let’s put our heads together and try something new and it’s been working,” she said.