Men's Shelter of Charlotte

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Ending Homelessness: MSC’s Impact

In the next week, MSC plans to publish our first Quarterly Impact Report for the months July-August-September 2014 (1st Quarter of FY15).  Our purpose in making this report public is to demonstrate to all of our stakeholders, as well as the larger community, the impact MSC’s Equation:  Income+Housing+Support is having on ending homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County.  I’d like to give you a sneak preview to our upcoming report.

1st Quarter Results:

  • 114 men have moved to more appropriate housing – we’re right on track to move 500 men this fiscal year
  • Average income for men moving out of our shelters is $917 per month
  • 53% of moves are to permanency – rental housing and family reunification 

As proud as we are that these numbers are demonstrating success, we’re even prouder of the men behind the numbers.  Did you know that the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte serves fathers, sons, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, and cousins?  Did you know MSC serves plumbers, roofers, chefs, information technologists, and entrepreneurs?  Did you know that 10% of the men experiencing homelessness and seeking MSC’s assistance have proudly served in our United States armed forces?  Too often we have a stereotype in mind when we think of a “homeless man.”  However, the reality is that the men who are experiencing homelessness and served at MSC are you and me.

Keep your eye on our website – www.MensShelterofCharlotte – for the full report by the end of October.  Next week I’ll share more of the impact MSC is having on ending homelessness for the men we serve.

Let’s Get Wonkish for a Moment

I’ve always believed that we shouldn’t expect social issues to be solved by government but that government should play a significant role in helping communities solve their problems.  Homelessness is no exception. Our federal, state, and local governments can, and should, assist us as we end homelessness in our community.  So, allow me to play policy wonk for a minute and offer suggestions for how we can all encourage our government to continue partnering with us to solve the issue of homelessness. At the federal level we need Congress to appropriately fund current initiatives that work – Homeless Assistance Grants through the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD); Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (HUD); Supportive Housing Vouchers, Supportive Services for Veteran Families, and Per Diem grants through the Veterans Administration (VA); Runaway and Homeless Youth Act Programs through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HUD). I can attest to the value of these federally funded programs.  In 2008, Congress passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, thereby establishing a National Housing Trust Fund.  This fund could be a significant tool to ending homelessness, however Congress has yet to authorize funding.  We need Congress to establish a permanent revenue source to make the National Housing Trust Fund a reality. At the state level, the N.C. General Assembly has to completely address the fiasco that our statewide mental health system is in today.  For too long, our state has dabbled with mental health reform, never fully choosing a path and then committing to it for the long run.  We have to expand Medicaid (which, by the way, the federal government will fund) so that thousands of North Carolinians will have access not only to healthcare but also critically needed mental health services.  We’re very fortunate in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County to have our City and County governments committed to ending homelessness.  We need to continue to thank our local government officials and elected leaders, while also not letting them forget that their continued leadership and financial support will be critical to ending homelessness in our community. What can you do?  Well, becoming a policy wonk isn’t necessary.  Letting your federal, state, and local elected officials know that you want them to continue supporting smart fiscal and regulatory policies to end homelessness would help a lot.  It’s easy to contact them, just search Congress, NC General Assembly, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg to quickly find lists and contact information for your representatives. If you want more information about federal policy, the National Alliance to End Homelessness produces an annual policy guide that you can find on their website www.endhomelessness.org.  There are so many ways to get involved in ending homelessness.  While influencing public policy often seems slow and tedious, it is absolutely necessary and one way you can make a difference.
 

Homelessness is a Human Rights Issue

What do you think about when you hear the phrase “Human Rights Issue”?  I think about human trafficking, suppression of civil rights, and discrimination, to name a few.  But have you thought about homelessness as a human rights issue?  Many people experiencing homelessness face issues of domestic violence, suppression of rights, and, yes, even human trafficking.  As importantly, people experiencing homelessness need access to what we can all agree is a basic human right – a safe, decent, affordable place to live.  So it makes sense to place homelessness within the context of human rights issues.

Just this week, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness posted a blog titled “3 Reasons to Address Homelessness as a Human Rights Issue.”  You can find the full blog at http://USICH.gov/blog.  Below I’ve quoted the gist of their posting, which I think is important for all who are concerned about homelessness to consider.

Here are three key benefits of addressing homelessness from a human rights perspective:

  • Housing is a human right, and remembering that keeps stakeholders focused on helping people who experience homelessness achieve permanent housing, rather than on services that – may be well-intentioned but – do not ultimately help people exit homelessness into housing stability.  Permanent housing is the primary solution to preventing and ending homelessness and the overarching strategy of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
  • Human rights put people first.  Good strategies start from understanding the unique needs of individuals, families, youth, and Veterans.  A human rights approach keeps people and their needs at the forefront of our work.
  • Homelessness has a human cost.  Yes, ending homelessness is cost-effective for the taxpayer (doing nothing can actually cost taxpayers more money).  But dollars are not the only cost of homelessness; humans experience homelessness at a horrific expense to the health and well-being of themselves and their communities.  When we make the case that safe and stable housing is a human right, our cause is strengthened.  We can tap into the passions, relationships, and experiences that cut across sectors — and budget sheets — to create new partnerships and solutions.

Thanks to Liz Osborn at the USICH for making such a thoughtful and compelling argument for addressing homelessness as a human rights issue.  To learn more about the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, Opening Doors (mentioned by Liz above), please visit their website at usich.gov.

One key strategy for ending homelessness is to stop thinking about the issue as a social ill or condition.  It’s a tragic human experience.  It’s also a human experience we can end and prevent. 

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