Homeless Programs Aimed at 'Rapid Re-Housing'

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Homeless Programs Aimed at 'Rapid Re-Housing'

Lexington Park, MD - 8/1/2012

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By Dick Myers

There’s a relatively new trend in programs aimed at providing shelter and services to the homeless. Known as “Rapid Re-Housing,” the idea was given a boost by federal funding under President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

According to Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia, rapid re-housing “is a relatively recent innovation in human service programs andsocial policyregarding treatment of thehomelessand is an alternative to a system of emergency shelter/transitional housing progressions. Rather than moving homeless individuals through different ‘levels’ of housing, known as the Continuum of Care, whereby each level moves them closer to ‘independent housing’ (for example: from the streets to a public shelter, and from a public shelter to a transitional housing program, and from there to their own apartment in the community) Housing First (rapid re-housing) moves the homeless individual or household immediately from the streets or homeless shelters into their ownapartments.”

On July 31 the St. Mary’s County Commissioners approved a grant application to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. Two-thirds of the $75,000 being sought in the grant would be for rapid re-housing. Three shelters would benefit from the grant, if received: Three Oaks, Leah’s House and Angel’s Watch, with Three Oaks receiving the largest share.

Three Oaks Center Director Lanny Lancaster appeared before the commissioners along with representatives of the Department of Aging and Human Services, which is applying for the grant. Lancaster told the Bay Net, “It is a good thing because it works.”

Lancaster told the commissioners that rental housing is used in St. Mary’s County for rapid re-housing. He said Three Oaks has good rapport with owners of rental housing. “We have convinced them over time. They understand we are not just dumping them,” Lancaster said of Three Oaks program that not only places the homeless in rental housing but provides on-going assistance that includes assigning a case manager and providing employment assistance.

Lancaster told the Bay Net that homelessness comes in many forms, including living in the woods to “bouncing around” from one temporary situation to another. This is particularly hard on the children of the homeless, a situation advocates hope to remedy by providing families with stable housing situations.

Lancaster informed the commissioners that he is working with about 50 different rental property owners, with about 60 percent in the Lexington Park area and the rest spread around the county.

His shelter in Lexington Park is full and has a waiting list. But the additional monies available for rapid re-housing and the sheltering provided by W.A.R.M. in the winter ease the burden on that waiting list.

Three Oaks also recently received a $219,192 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide services to homeless veterans. Lancaster said Three Oaks has always served veterans, but the grant will allow for additional rapid re-housing for them.  He said the homeless veteran’s community in the county includes women as well as men. The grant was announced July 18 by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D: 5th).

When the grant was announced, Lancaster said, “Our community leads the state in its concentration of veteran households and we are grateful to the VA for recognizing our needs. We have experienced a surge of requests from veterans who have been experiencing difficulty as a direct result of their recent service in war areas and from others who are simply experiencing the difficulties of a troubled economy. Now, with the help of the VA, we will be able to do much more to help them.”

The federal grant program under the 2009 stimulus package is winding down, but the other homeless programs are continuing and incorporating the new initiative. Programs such as the Veteran’s Homeless program allow Three Oaks and other shelters to free up monies targeted for veterans to use for others in the community in need of assistance, and hopefully shorten that waiting list.

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