Thursday, September 13, 2007

Double Negative -- Luke and Dan -- and homeless with status quo

Effort to reduce homelessness behind schedule 'We have a concern that the resources that are coming in are not simply funding a status quo that doesn't work.
The resources that have come to the county are $60-million dollars in the past five years.

Neither Luke Ravenstahl nor Dan Onorato care about the poor. The poor are very bad campaign donors. The poor are not welcome in the cultural district either.

The poor are -- in the minds of Luke and Dan -- much like the Canadian Geese of North Park. The status quo plans are worthy as long as everybody ignores both the problem and the efforts to a solution. Keep em scattered so they don't dwell in any one location.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Effort to reduce homelessness behind schedule
Thursday, September 13, 2007
By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A 10-year plan to reduce homelessness in Allegheny County needs a tune-up, the federal czar on the issue said yesterday.

"Coast to coast, in large and small cities, we're seeing the first reductions in 20 years" in the numbers of people living on the streets or in shelters, said Philip F. Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. "My sense is that in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, we have not yet seen a reduction."

His comments came after meetings with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and his Neighborhood Initiatives director, Kim Graziani. A planned meeting with county Chief Executive Dan Onorato fell through.

The number of homeless people identified in county Department of Human Services counts has remained stubbornly above 2,000 for years, despite the steps taken toward implementation of the plan rolled out in February 2005. That plan calls for more permanent housing for the very poor and the creation of an "engagement center" at which multiple services would be offered.

Mr. Mangano said the city and county should adopt a "housing first" philosophy, in which the chronically homeless are given a room or apartment with few strings attached, and then are provided the medical and social services needed to stabilize their lives.

That's a shift from the longtime approach, which had homeless people meeting a variety of conditions, including freedom from drug and alcohol abuse, before they could get housing. That approach didn't work, causing people to "randomly ricochet between primary health, behavioral health, law enforcement and court systems" at an immense cost to communities.

The cost of one chronically homeless person -- mostly in law enforcement and uncompensated medical care -- ranges from $35,000 to $150,000 a year, according to studies in various cities, he said. By contrast, the cost of providing an apartment and needed services ranges from $13,000 to $25,000 a year, he said.

Locally, no cost estimates are available, he said, and that reflects another flaw in the current plan: It doesn't include a cost-benefit analysis.

The county has received $60 million in federal anti-homelessness funds in the last five years, Mr. Mangano said.

"We have a concern that the resources that are coming in are not simply funding a status quo that doesn't work.

"We now expect visible, measurable, quantifiable change in your streets, your neighborhoods, and in the lives of homeless people," he said.

He said the county "has been aggressive" about implementing its plan, but asked Mr. Ravenstahl to "stamp what your administration has to offer on that plan." The city, county, nonprofit and business communities should be involved, he said.

Neither Mr. Ravenstahl nor Mr. Onorato responded to requests for comment. Because the mayor was running an hour behind schedule, Mr. Mangano missed a planned meeting with the county executive.

"This gentleman didn't show up for the meeting and didn't bother to call and reschedule or apologize," said Kevin Evanto, spokesman for Mr. Onorato. He noted that the county, not the city, handles human services including homelessness policy and the 10-year plan.

Homeless services providers maintained that progress is being made on the pillars of the 10-year plan, but some agreed that a rewrite might be appropriate.

Linda Sheets, director of component services for Operation Safety Net, a project of Mercy Behavioral Services, said the various services envisioned for the engagement center are coming together, though not in one building as originally planned.

She said South Side-based Operation Safety Net opened 20 apartments for the homeless in June -- in accord with the "housing first" philosophy -- and is trying to get funding for 45 more permanent homes. The apartments are scattered throughout the area.

"I think the plan needs to be looked at again," said Mac McMahon, director of homeless assistance programs at Community Human Services in South Oakland. "I think we're a little too vague now in terms of what needs to be done."

First published on September 13, 2007 at 12:00 am
Rich Lord can be reached at or 412-263-1542.