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Homelessness in our Community and the Housing First Model

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

by Pastor Susan


When the members of First Presbyterian Church decided in the 1960s to reinforce the historic sanctuary and remain a downtown church, we set a course that shapes our context and our ministries today. This is reflected in our connections to the business district, elected officials, and neighbors. Some of our neighbors’ experience homelessness.


“What you do to the least of these, you do to me.” —Jesus (Matthew 25)


Homelessness and possible constructive community responses were the subject of a State Journal-Register article on May 10, 2019. Specifically, the story was about the Housing First model presented by the Corporation for Supportive Housing shared in three meetings that week. Our Chaplain, Tim Haworth and I, have been hosting meetings of a local coalition working toward supportive permanent housing. Here are links about how cities and hospitals are providing housing and how it provides significant financial savings.


Providing permanent supportive housing in a Housing First model costs less and helps more. We are collaborating with the City of Springfield, Helping Hands, the Permanent Supportive Housing Coalition, Memorial and St. John’s hospitals, Lincoln Library, and the Police Department. The Springfield Police Department Homeless Outreach Officer Chris Jones cited a statistic of $50,000/year for each chronically homeless person compared to $10,000/year to house and support each one. These figures may have come from the medical school who has numbers for community financial savings through their project in Enos Park. Police, court, jail, and ER visits are expensive financially and socially.


The hospital staff member who attends the coalition meeting told me several weeks ago that St John’s estimates that if the could reduce emergency department visits by chronically homeless people (not all people experiencing homelessness, just those the hospital could identify as chronically homeless) by 30%, they would save $800,000/year. Each ER visit averages $4000.


The Corporation for Supportive Housing were the presenters last week. They were excellent resource people who are assisting communities throughout Illinois. They presented at three meetings, including the local Coalition for Supportive Housing (City, County, Housing, Hospitals, Helping Hands, etc) which our church hosted, in addition to the public meeting at the library and a meeting of the Continuum of Care.


Here are additional resources:

https://www.npr.org/tags/459124004/housing-first

http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/02/21/homelessness-as-medical-condition-chicago

https://www.vox.com/2014/5/30/5764096/homeless-shelter-housing-help-solutions

https://www.npr.org/news/specials/housingfirst/

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