Cities Provide Apartments for Homeless
Sunday, April 15, 2007; 1:10 PM
NORFOLK, Va. -- Andrew Adams hated one soup kitchen because he believed the workers deprived him of food. He stopped staying at a homeless shelter because he was convinced the people who ran it were plotting to evict him.
So Adams lived on the street, sleeping in out-of-the-way places, trying to avoid the people who, in his mind, were out to get him.
"Anywhere I walked, I could sleep," Adams said in an interview. "Anywhere hidden or discreet, where people wouldn't notice me when they walked by."
Adams, 41, was homeless for much of the past 20 years. Then, last fall, he was pulled from the street by a program that places mentally ill homeless people in apartments and provides them with services to help them live on their own.
Norfolk's program is part of a national effort to end chronic homelessness by giving people permanent housing, in apartments, rather than offering temporary beds in shelters.
The effort targets the hardest cases: the people who mutter on street corners, sleep in doorways and rummage through garbage cans. Most are addicts, mentally ill or physically disabled. Many have resisted efforts to help them, some for decades.
In a few cities, the results have proved remarkable. But it has not come easy for communities as they try to navigate the maze of funding sources needed for such programs.
"We had spent 20 years managing the crisis," said Philip Mangano, who coordinates homeless programs for the federal government. "We thought a blanket and a bowl of soup was the best we could do for people. ... Now, we intend to end this disgrace."
The U.S. had three-quarters of a million homeless people according to a national count in January 2005 _ the government's only national estimate. Nearly half of the homeless slept outside; the rest were in shelters or transitional beds.
Some cities have counted homeless people for years. In the past few years, several have reported significant declines in the number of people sleeping on the street.
Among the cities that have seen their street population drop by one-third or more are St. Louis; San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; Nashua, N.H.; and Quincy, Mass. In Philadelphia, the number dropped by one-quarter.
In New York City, there was a 35 percent decrease in Manhattan, but increases in the city's other boroughs.