Thursday, February 7, 2008

Fewer homeless counted this year than last year in Springfield

Mayor Sarno and Gerry McCafferty, deputy director of the Office for Housing, had some good news to announce to the press yesterday: there are 37 fewer single people homeless this year than last year.

The Housing First model, which prioritizes housing and services for the city's most entrenched homeless people, seems to be paying off. The strategy is to house those 10% of the homeless who use the most resources, leaving more resources for the other 90%.

There's a lot I think is missing from the Housing First model-- like new housing!-- but what is very different in Springfield now compared to three years ago is that the city has a plan. Homeless people and allies have moved the city from ignoring homelessness to managing it. Too bad homeless people can't be a part of that "management," but how often does that get to happen? Maybe only in tent cities....

George Graham from the Republican called me yesterday for any thoughts I had about this news, but I didn't have a lot to say. My organization, Arise for Social Justice, hasn't been organizing with homeless people since the end of May, when we had to close our headquarters and the Warming Place shelter was forced to close. Arise has never been a smoke and mirrors organization; as old saw as it sounds, our authority comes from the people and we won't have much to say until we're doing the work again. That won't be much longer, I hope. Next week we're painting over the "Coming Soon" above Arise for Social Justice.

Earlier this week I ran into a woman, Ethel, who's known Arise since we were in our first home, 718 State St., twenty years ago. Now we're back on State! I start to tell her about it, and she says, "I know, I go by it every day on the bus. When can I stop in?"
"Soon, very soon," I say.

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