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Homeless plan in works

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Wake County holding forums to develop local plan to end homelessness.

By Jennifer Whytock

RALEIGH, N.C., [02 23 04] — Based on a national push for local communities to develop plans to end homelessness, Wake County has launched a series of public forums on the issue.

Sponsoring the forums, designed to create a 10-year action plan to end homelessness, are the City of Raleigh, Wake County and Wake Continuum of Care Collaborative, a group of 30 agencies serving the homeless.

In 2002, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that is backed by President Bush, encouraged U.S. cities, counties and states to create 10-year plans to end homelessness throughout the U.S.

While most communities in the U.S. try to manage homeless by serving the current homeless population, the national push aims to encourage communities to develop plans that will end homelessness.

Dozens of cities, counties and states are working on 10-year plans or have completed them, although Wake County is the first region in North Carolina to begin developing a plan, says Ken Maness, area planner for Raleigh planning department.

He says he hopes the program will spread to other parts of the state soon.

During the forums, discussion groups involving nonprofits, government officials, faith groups, community leaders, former homeless people and the general public will examine homeless issues and talk about ways to overcome extreme poverty and prevent others from becoming homeless.

Ideas from the forums, data on Wake County needs, and information from other regions’ 10-year plans will combine to form a plan for Wake County.

“This is an action plan, so we will really try to target things that we can reasonably accomplish,” says Maness.

In February 2003, Wake County counted roughly 1,470 homeless people, up 50 percent since 1993, while another 15,000 to 17,000 people are at risk of becoming homeless soon, says Jack Rogers, director of economic self-sufficiency for Wake’s department of human services.

While it is hard to count, the homeless population totals roughly 2.5 million people in the U.S., including 43,000 North Carolinians, says Rogers.

Widespread homelessness in the U.S. was not a problem until the 1980s and it has grown over the last two decades, due in part to scarce affordable housing, the cost of basic family services and wages that are below the minimum cost of living, says the national group.

“People who are homeless must be helped, and the current system does this reasonably well for many of those who become homeless,” the group says in a statement. “But the homeless assistance systems can neither prevent people from becoming homeless nor change the overall availability of housing, income and services that will truly end homelessness.”

For information, visit:

www.raleigh-nc.org/planning/ending_homelessness.htm.

Forums will be held:

  • February 19 — The plan and breaking down stereotypes.
  • March 18 — The people: men, women, youth, immigrants, refugees and veterans.
  • April 15 — The problems: alcoholism and substance abuse, mental illness, hospital discharge, prison release, chronic homelessness, domestic violence and health.
  • May 20 — The programs: policies, rules, regulations, organizational structures, service provision, providers, transportation, jobs, training, education and housing.
  • September 16 — Public comment on the draft plan.
  • October 21 — Presentation of the 10-year action plan.

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