Finding 100,000 Homes for the Homeless

Program featured on "60 Minutes" coming to Des Moines

Finding 100,000 Homes for the Homeless

To end homelessness, just give homeless people a place to live.  It sounds too good to be true, but the national 100,000 Homes Campaign is doing just that.  And it’s working: local teams in over 230 cities have housed more than 83,000 people.  Its success in tackling this difficult task led Anderson Cooper to profile the campaign this month on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”  Now, a local team will work to bring the 100,000 Homes Campaign to Des Moines.

The success of this campaign is due to its unique data-driven approach.  The 100,000 Homes Campaign advocates for a “Housing First” intervention.  Unlike most programs, “Housing First” programs give vulnerable people a place to live without requiring that they undergo any rehabilitation.  Though it may seem counterintuitive, research has shown that this is a more effective way of getting people off of the streets for good.  Once they are settled into their new homes, they can work with caseworkers to begin to tackle their other problems without the distraction of finding a place to stay.

To start the process, a local team surveys the homeless population in their city in an event called a “Registry Week.”  Surveyors collect medical histories and whatever contact information they can gather from people living on the streets.  When housing becomes available, the people with the greatest medical needs are placed first so that they are given a chance to stabilize and get help.  Team members work with landlords to find affordable housing, and enroll people in federal aid programs to make ends meet.

Even with the cost of subsidized rent, this system actually results in a cost savings to the taxpayer.  Homeless people often end up in emergency rooms due to their untreated medical conditions, receiving treatments they cannot pay for.  Others end up in jail.  The price of one night in the hospital or several nights in jail could be better spent paying a month’s rent. 

The Polk County Housing Trust Fund will be working with local nonprofit Primary Health Care (PHC) to bring the movement to our city.  Armed with the lessons learned from their successful efforts to rehouse the residents of the Hotel Randolph, PHC will work with other providers to offer case management and ultimately, find housing for Des Moines’ chronically homeless population.  PCHTF will help manage the project and work to get the word out about this powerful movement.

Housing our vulnerable neighbors won’t happen without your support.  Volunteers will be needed to help with our “Registry Week” in late April, and on an ongoing basis to help people move into their new apartments.  People will need furniture, linens, and other household necessities.  We hope that you will join us in our efforts to end chronic homelessness in Des Moines!

To receive updates about the Des Moines campaign, Like 100,000 Homes Des Moines on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

To view the full “60 Minutes” segment about the national 100,000 Homes Campaign, click here.