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How five different cities are handing homelessness

How five different cities are handing homelessness
Sara Weber, Deseret News

As many as 564,708 people went without shelter on any given night in 2015, according to the latest report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The NAEH reported an overall decrease in homelessness since 2014, which can be attributed to the successes of programs like those used in Salt Lake City. But other cities, like San Francisco, are revisiting their policies after seeing a standstill in the number of people living on the street.

Here are how some cities around the country are — or aren’t — helping the homeless.

Chronic homelessness is concentrated in a few states. (Joseph Tolman)

Chronic homelessness is concentrated in a few states. (Joseph Tolman)

Salt Lake City

Utah has managed to reduce its homeless population by 72 percent in the past nine years by implementing a Housing First Program in Salt Lake City, according to a recent article by Mother Jones. The policy has gained national attention for its success and is serving as a model for programs in North Carolina and San Francisco.

Tenants in the Housing First Program pay $50 a month, or 30 percent of their income. The central idea is to give people shelter first, then focus on drug abuse, mental disorders or other personal issues.

The article pointed out that the best approach to solve homelessness in multi-faceted, but should essentially “create more jobs, redistribute the wealth, improve education, socialize health care, basically redesign our political and economic systems to make sure everybody can afford a roof over their heads.”

Utah’s Fourth Street Clinic, which offers the homeless the medical attention they may need but often struggle to afford, is another successful facet of the city’s homelessness plan. Since 1988, the clinic has dispensed medicine and provided medical support to more than 4,800 Utahns without a home.

Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas, is utilizing the recent tiny home trend to provide affordable housing to those who can’t, according to NBC News.

Community First, as one neighborhood is called, provides around 250 homeless people with a small home on a compact 27-acre lot. One resident referred to her new home as “33.5 feet of linear bliss.”

The tiny neighborhood also has a church, a garden, chicken coops, a theater and a medical center, NBC reported, but residents must be able to prove they are homeless and submit to a criminal background check. Having a record, however, won’t disqualify a possible resident. The most expensive property on the lot is less than $400 a month.

Impact of homelessness on the lives of youth (Aaron Thorup, Civic Enterprises)

Impact of homelessness on the lives of youth (Aaron Thorup, Civic Enterprises)

San Francisco

The city of San Francisco has not effectively addressed its homelessness situation, according to a recent report in The San Francisco Chronicle. The article found that the homeless population in the Bay Area had not changed for at least 20 year.

The city has tried a few different methods in the past, including a “shelter-bed-and-a-sandwich approach” and permanent housing options, but neither fixed any of the mental health problems and there simply wasn’t enough space.

Possible solutions could be found in “private-public funding models, cheaper forms of modular housing and streamlining techniques for helping people move out of supportive housing after they’ve been stabilized,” according to the article.

Jennifer Friedenbach of the Coalition on Homelessness said the problem has always been the money, and said the city needs “a sustained revenue source to double the housing units for homeless people, and to do prevention to keep people in their homes and to not become homeless to begin with.”

Aurora, Colorado

Colorado’s third-largest city announced in May that it will use its controversial marijuana legislation to help its homeless population.

The city plans to allocate $1.5 million in legalized marijuana taxes to combat homelessness, according to the Huffington Post. The money has already been divided among different nonprofits to spend as they see fit, according to the article. The Colfax Community network, for example, will receive $200,000 to support its work of helping low-income families who find shelter in motels. And the city will provide two outreach groups with vans to help them serve the homeless in medical crisis, HuffPo said. The city will evaluate how the group spent the money before deciding to continue the funding next year.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles has proposed numerous efforts to combat the issue of homelessness over the years, but most recently announced a $2 billion plan to build shelters for people who live on the street and have mental disabilities in efforts to prevent cyclical homelessness, according to a CBS report.

And, according to CNN Money, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors will propose a .5 percent tax for those making more than $1 million a year that would go toward funding the county’s homelessness plan. The board estimates the tax would bring in about $250 to $350 million each year.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority recently found that there were 46,874 people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County, a 5.7 percent increase from 2015.

Email: sweber@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @sarapweber

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