In recent years there has been national movement toward community-wide, strategic approaches to ending homelessness. The driving force behind these efforts is new cost-benefit evidence showing that greater results can be had by investing public dollars in different ways. In fact, it turns out that ending homelessness is significantly less expensive than ignoring it.
The Heading Home St. Louis County Plan is the result of a community level strategic planning effort to end homelessness within ten years. Although we join over 200 other cities and 150 counties that have pursued such planning efforts, ours is the first Ten-Year Plan to be developed in Greater Minnesota.
A diverse End Homelessness In Ten planning team engaged in a comprehensive process that was informed by data, best practices, and community input - including what homeless people themselves say they need. It began by setting a vision around which the Plan would be built. Key messages such as a focus on prevention, increased public-private collaboration, and a client-centered approach; were carried through and reflected throughout the Plan.
The Heading Home Plan embraces the shift from managing homelessness to ending it. According to recent research, successful Ten-Year Plans require both ‘closing the front door' by preventing future homelessness, and ‘opening the back door' by offering new housing options that accept the homeless as they are. Four broad goals have been established toward this end:
- Goal 1: Prevent New Occurrences of Homelessness.
- Goal 2: Shorten Length of Homelessness and Rapidly Re-house in the Most Permanent Arrangement.
- Goal 3: Expand Access Points to Housing and Services.
- Goal 4: Increase Supports Needed to Maintain Housing.
The Heading Home Saint Louis County Plan was developed on the premise that current resources will continue to be available. The Plan outlines how to build upon those resources, in addition to pursuing new ways to work more effectively together across organizations. The 12 strategies selected to achieve these goals, along with detailed action steps for 2007, can be found beginning on page 27.
It also complements Minnesota's State Business Plan for Ending Long-Term Homelessness. Common elements include the emphasis on development of additional permanent supportive housing, providing options that meet the needs of specific sub-populations (e.g. youths, families, chronically homeless, veterans), inclusion of low-demand housing where acceptance of services is not required, and strengthening discharge planning processes.