Housing First Celebrates One Year of Housing Chronically Homeless with 50 Individuals Housed

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Members of the M25 Initiative’s Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative Thursday (June 14th) announced that they have successfully exceeded their goal of housing 42 chronically homeless individuals since June 12, 2017.

To date, the Collaborative has directly housed 46 individuals, with an additional 4 individuals housed through referrals within the Collaborative partners, for a cumulative total of 50 housed.

The Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative (CCHFC) is a unique consortium of social service organizations, faith-based institutions, and government officials committed to tackling the problem of chronic homelessness in Cumberland County. The guiding agency of this collaborative is the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Bridgeton, which also facilitates the grassroots Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition. The other partners of the collaborative include Gateway Community Action Partnership, PRAC of Southern New Jersey, Resources for Independent Living, Inspira Health Network, CompleteCare Health Network, Volunteers of America Delaware Valley, and the Cumberland County Jail and government.

“We are proud of our partnership and success of this unique program that brings our community together to change lives, save money, and transform Cumberland County through collective compassion,” said Dr. Robin Weinstein, President of the M25 Initiative and Convener of the Collaborative. “Our program is unique in that it seeks to holistically address chronic homelessness through a grassroots community response that is cost-effective and compassion oriented. The success of this program would not be possible without the support from donors in the community and our partners on the ground that work with our clients.”

The Housing First model that is being employed throughout the state and the nation has demonstrated real results. The underlying philosophy of Housing First is that, instead of requiring people to meet certain conditions before providing them housing, the homeless are first given housing and then helped to make the changes they need to reintegrate into society successfully.

In Mercer County, reports indicate they have seen that the Housing First model has saved taxpayers as much as $10,000 to $12,000 per year per client, while also reducing homelessness by 28 percent.

National and State estimates place the cost of a chronically homeless individual at between $25,000 to $40,000 a year as they cycle through hospitals, jails, addiction facilities and social service agencies.
“Housing First is a win-win for all parties,” said David Moore, Executive Director of Behavioral Health Services for Inspira Health Network and M25 Board Member. “People can only get better when they have a place to call home. The data across the nation and in our own community demonstrates that Housing First is not just the righteous thing to do, but it is also a cost-effective model.”

Inspira Health Network has been a major financial contributor to the Housing First Program by providing over $100,000 in financial support and in-kind services.

One of the primary goals of this program is to stabilize chronically homeless individuals, which reduces the amount of frequent usage of acute hospital services, the correctional system, and other service organizations. The reduction of repetitive usage substantially reduces the financial and programmatic costs that are frequently placed on these providers and taxpayers by the chronically homeless.

“Preliminary data is showing that this program is not only changing the lives of the clients, but it is saving tax payers real money,” said City of Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly, who is also President & CEO of Gateway Community Action Partnership. “Our first 12 clients in their first 6 months housed have shown a 74% reduction in hospital usage, 73% reduction in ambulance usage, and none of those with prior incarceration records have returned to jail. It is exciting to begin to see real momentum in turning the tide of homelessness because of its promise not only to the individuals involved, but to our entire community.”

35 individuals were housed through a major grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs which provided housing vouchers to the Collaborative. These housing vouchers enable the Collaborative to target Cumberland County’s chronically homeless individuals and place them in quality housing.

11 individuals have been housed as a result of the M25 Initiative Phase Two Program to end chronic homelessness in Cumberland County. Phase Two of the Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative’s work to end homelessness in Cumberland County by 2020 utilizes Rapid Rehousing (RRH) designed to help individuals and families exit homelessness and return to permanent housing as quickly as possible. The Housing First Phase Two Program seeks to serve a total of 20 chronically homeless and/or unsheltered individuals in Cumberland County in 2018.
“This collaborative is very unique and powerful,” said Ralph Padilla, CEO of PRAC of Southern New Jersey. “Individually our organizations can only do so much. However, when we work together as a team, we are able to really make miracles happen. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing hope come alive in a person who has been homeless when they walk into their own apartment.”

“Our case management system is holistic, comprehensive, and cost-effective,” said Lisa Killion-Smith, Executive Director of the Resources for Independent Living. “We have not recreated the wheel, but we are utilizing the existing resources in our community and linking them together in this unique collaborative to provide a network of support to help people emerge from homelessness and become successful contributors in society.”

“The Collaborative does not just get people a home, but we are working to help improve the overall quality of their lives,” said J. Curtis Edwards, President & CEO of CompleteCare. “The Housing First philosophy is that we stabilize our clients in a new home and then provide wrap-around case management to help them physically, emotionally, and mentally.”

“Volunteers of America Delaware Valley values its partnership with the M25 Initiative as we have seen the successes when combining housing with wrap-around services to those exiting the criminal justice system,” states Daniel Lombardo, VOADV President & CEO. “We are grateful for the resources and collaboration created through the Initiative and look forward to continuing to give hope to the County’s most vulnerable populations.”

The Housing First Program has received a significant financial investment from the Ocean First Foundation and the TD Charitable Foundation, along with various community donors.

“We can’t thank our community enough for their support. Each of our first 35 clients were sponsored by a community church, organization, or a group of caring individuals, who provided their apartment-warming move-in party with furniture and supplies to help these individuals get a fresh start,” concluded Weinstein.

For more information on the Housing First Collaborative, please visit www.endhomelessness2020.com or call 1-844-M25-HOPE.

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