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Gov. Bob McDonnell made it a priority to put displaced individuals and families in stable housing.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
People who become homeless typically are struggling with some other adversity that causes them to end up living out of their cars or on the street. Solving that underlying problem is key to restoring stability, but solutions are hard to come by when “home” is a cot in the nearest shelter.
That recognition is transforming how federal, state and community leaders are confronting homelessness. Dollars are being invested in rapid re-housing programs and supportive housing units. The idea is to give individuals and families an address, a safe place from which to start chipping away at financial, health and other challenges.
The strategy is working in Virginia. The overall homeless rate dropped 16 percent in the past three years, from 9,080 in 2010 to 7,625 this year, mirroring similar declines for displaced families and veterans.
Gov. Bob McDonnell deserves credit for making the issue a priority just four months into his term. Nimbleness is key to success for Virginia governors limited to four years in office. Other factors that contributed to progress were private sector involvement, nonprofit support and federal stimulus dollars. Roanokers can also feel proud that one of their own took a leadership role in the initiative. Pam Kestner served on the governor’s Homeless Outcomes Advisory Committee and impressed him enough to be appointed homeless outcomes coordinator last year.
Although McDonnell has exceeded his goal to reduce homelessness by 15 percent, he acknowledged that’s a start, not an end point. More housing options are needed. A meager 7 percent decline in the number of homeless people with serious mental illnesses, paired with a simultaneous rise in mental illness in jail populations, suggests more attention is needed in that direction. Candidates for governor can make sure there’s no regression by committing themselves to the effort.
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