Dear Community Members,
There was a forum recently held at Keene State College called “Community Solutions: Addressing Homelessness in Keene.” The 3-hour long forum was open to the public and co-sponsored by the Greater Keene Homeless Coalition, of which Hundred Nights is a member agency.
Meghan Arsenault delivered the evening’s keynote speech. She’s the research and impact manager of Community Solutions, a national nonprofit organization aimed at eliminating homelessness. Meghan presented the organization’s Built for Zero initiative, a data-driven effort to target communities across the country and help them end specific categories of homelessness, for example chronic homelessness. Those are two categories of homelessness which have very specific federal definitions provided by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Essentially, HUD defines someone as homeless if they’re living in a homeless shelter or sleeping somewhere that’s not intended for human habitation, such as under a bridge or on a bench. Under the department’s terminology, a person living in a motel or sleeping on someone’s couch isn’t considered homeless.
The “chronic homelessness” label has several stipulations. For it to apply, a person must have a diagnosable disabling condition that limits their work or daily life. This may include substance abuse, mental illness, a developmental disability or physical illness.
The person must have been continuously homeless for at least a year or have experienced at least four separate episodes of homelessness in the past three years. A chronically homeless person must be unaccompanied. Couples and families don’t count.
NH – yes, the whole state! – became a Built for Zero community last year. The data collected shows 141 people experiencing chronic homelessness across the state, according to the HUD definition, and the goal is to reduce that to “functional zero” by July 2019. Community Solutions measures the elimination of homelessness by reaching “functional zero,” which for chronic homelessness means a community has three or fewer people in that category.
It is a worthy goal, and certainly worth working towards as a community and as a State. However, a couple of the things that got brought up during the forum also deserve mentioning. While there are 141 chronically homeless, there are more than 2,000 people in NH experiencing homelessness who are not in a category that “fast tracks” their ability to get into stable housing. While HUD doesn’t count children living in hotel rooms with their parent(s) as homeless, the school system does. There has been a definite increase in the numbers of families with children who need emergency shelter. Both the presenter from Community Solutions and the presenters from the NH Department of Health and Human Services vocalized that local homeless shelters would be needed into the foreseeable future, and urged people in communities around the state to be supportive of the 211 system that sometimes moves people experiencing homelessness from a community with no available shelter beds to a community that might have an opening, as people need to be sheltered.
Now that this first forum has taken place, we sincerely hope that the momentum continues, with more information made available to the community at large so that we can work together to solve homelessness.
May you and yours enjoy a healthy and happy Holiday Season!
Friends of Hundred Nights Member
From the Winter 2018 Hundred Nights, Inc. Newsletter