Today is National Homeless Persons Memorial Day. It is a day to take time to remember those who have died while experiencing homelessness in America. Over 150 communities are holding events this year.
People experiencing homelessness have a substantially lower life expectancy than other Americans due to a lack of health care, increased rates of substance abuse and mental health disorders, violence, and other causes. As a nation, we can and should do better to prevent these tragedies and ensure that every American has access to a safe, stable place to call home. As we remember the men and women who have died on America's streets, let today be a reminder that we need to come together and take action to implement solutions to homelessness.
Building on proven solutions from across the country, the Obama administration launched Opening Doors in June 2010. Many communities are implementing successful strategies and are making progress even during the current economic climate.
When communities have taken the bold steps to collaborate with all key stakeholders to plan, set targets, implement proven strategies, and measure results, we have seen how this positively impacts many lives. Building on this momentum at the local level, USICH launched a new initiative this fall called Opening Doors Across America. Opening Doors Across America is a call to action for states and communities, but it is also for organizations, individuals, advocates, philanthropy and others. Together, working toward the same goals, we can invest resources in solutions and make ending homelessness a reality.
Today we highlight Philadelphia. Mayor Nutter has set the aggressive goal of being the first large city in America to end homelessness and is partnering with government and private stakeholders to put action behind those words. In the last few years, the City of Philadelphia has strengthened partnerships with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Philadelphia Housing Authority to get eligible Veterans into housing and make more housing subsidies available to people experiencing homelessness. They have developed successful public/private partnerships to expand housing availability. The community has implemented proven strategies: Housing First, targeting interventions to the most vulnerable, improved access to mainstream benefits, and using Medicaid to expand available services for people experiencing homelessness.
Philadelphia is participating in the 100K Homes Campaign, a national effort to find homes for the 100,000 people who are vulnerable an experiencing homelessness. In May, a team of volunteers, government employees, and provider organizations conducted an intensive week-long effort to create a registry of people living on the streets and in shelters, to prioritize those who have been homeless the longest and who are the most vulnerable for housing. This information is informing the city's long-term strategy to end chronic homelessness. Out of this effort so far, Philadelphia has housed more than 303 people and each has his or her own moving story.
One of these people is David whose name was changed to protect his identity. After relationships with his family crumbled, David became homeless and spent more than ten years living on the streets and sleeping under Interstate 95 in Philadelphia. About ten years ago, David was hit by a car and as a result suffered severe injuries to his hip. Without the stability of housing and access to full medical care, he was unable to have his injury properly and completely treated. His hip joint fused together making it very hard for him to walk. After David was identified by outreach workers, he was connected with Pathways to Housing, a homeless service provider. They first got him into his own apartment. For David, the significance of that does not fade, "You know, sometimes I just take a minute and I sit back and look around and realize that this is all mine. I have somewhere to live. I have somewhere to sleep at night. That feeling doesn't get old for me." Pathways also connected David to Social Security benefits and worked with him to navigate Medicaid to finally get the proper surgery and therapy he needed to improve his hip and begin to get around more easily. For David, stable housing, needed medical care, and his supportive Pathways "family" gave him a new outlook on life. He is both physically and mentally healthier and has a number of personal goals from writing a book to dancing at his nurse's wedding.
Last month, Philadelphia joined. Will you join us now?
On National Homeless Persons Memorial Day, be part of the change that will make homelessness as we know it history.
- Join Opening Doors Across America