Affordable homes seen as key goal
April 11, 2007 - 9:00 pm
It will be difficult to solve homelessness in Southern Nevada without affordable homes.
"We can do all the good work we can do, but if we have no place to house people, it doesn’t make any sense to go any further," said Assistant Clark County Manager Darryl Martin, who also serves as chair of the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition’s Committee on Homelessness.
Though much has been accomplished in the nearly two years since the launch of a regional plan to end homelessness, officials said Tuesday that work remains to be done, especially in addressing the lack of affordable housing.
Martin was joined by officials from Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City and the leaders of many local non-profit organizations that work with the homeless at a committee meeting to discuss the progress of the plan so far.
The gathering also served as the kick-off of a series of 18 community meetings to create clear benchmarks, objectives and time lines for the plan to end homelessness in Southern Nevada.
"There is definitely going to be a more formal, focused approach," Shannon West, regional homeless services coordinator, said. "We’ve made some progress and now it’s time to go back and put in solid benchmarks so we can really start charging our way to ending homelessness."
The Southern Nevada Regional Homeless and Housing 10 Point Plan, created in 2005, includes goals of improving coordination between government entities and non-profit organizations that work with the homeless, increasing intensive case management of homeless individuals, and creating more affordable housing.
Most homeless services providers agreed that one of the plan’s greatest successes so far has been in fostering cooperative relationships among sometimes territorial service providers.
"It’s like a dream to see the collaborative efforts," said Linda Lera-Randle El, director of the Straight from the Streets homeless outreach program. "It’s been a lonely road at times being an advocate or activist. But now you have regional coordination and don’t feel lonely like that anymore."
Martin also touted the committee’s inclement weather program that shelters homeless individuals during very cold and hot seasons, the shared Homeless Management Information System that helps service providers track homeless people, and the completion of the valley’s "first comprehensive homeless census," the results of which will be released this month.
Most homeless services providers agreed that the region’s greatest struggle is to find housing for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. The committee cited a 10 to 20 percent increase in rent in the past few years, the conversion of thousands of apartments into condos, and the elimination of thousands of trailer park spaces as contributing to the problem.
Martin said that $20 million in proposed funds being considered by the Legislature to fight homelessness would be focused on housing.
"We’re going to use that as seed money … so we can build affordable housing for this population," he said.
The community meetings will be divided into discussions about how best to help three groups of homeless people: families, individuals and youths. A schedule of the meetings, which will take place between April 17 and June 28, will soon be posted on the committee’s Web site at helphopehome.org, West said.10 POINT PLAN• Enhance coordination between government entities and non-profit organizations that work with the homeless.• Prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless through education and services for at-risk populations.• Provide seamless services for homeless people through effective partnerships including shared technology.• Foster self-sufficiency through access to education, training and employment opportunities.• Increase the availability of stable and sustainable housing, including emergency shelters and construction of permanent affordable housing.• Facilitate the transition from homelessness through intensive case management.• Ensure the availability of programs that provide basic needs, including hygiene, adequate diet and transitional supportive housing.• Increase access to medical, dental and vision care services.• Improve the availability of mental health services.• Improve the availability of substance abuse treatment programs.REVIEW-JOURNAL