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Survey Brings Newark Closer to Housing City's Homeless

Officials: One of 50 people housed so far

Newark's typical homeless person is likely a male who has been on the streets for at least two years, is in his mid-40s and has mental health issues. .

Tonya Bryan, Newark's policy advisor for homelessness, joined a small group of volunteers and city officials Tuesday at city hall to reveal the results and to announce the project housed its first person Monday. She also said another 12 people are lined up for housing in October. Bryan said the goal is to find permanent housing for 25 people by December and another 25 by December 2012.

She said six teams, made up of more than 50 volunteers, surveyed 116 homeless people in late June. The five-page Vulnerability Index Survey asked about housing history, medical needs, military service and income.

Of those 116, Bryan said, 50 were found to have health conditions associated with a high mortality rate and 43 reported being a victim of a violent attack since becoming homeless. She also said the average number of years homeless for the vulnerable population is six and the average number for the non-vulnerable population is three.

Newark's project is part of the larger 100,000 Homes Campaign, headed by Common Ground, to house 100,000 homeless nationwide by July 2013. That program has helped house roughly 10,500 people since its launch in 2010.

Jake Maguire, a spokesman for the 100,000 Homes Campaign, said Newark's results vary slightly from the national average. For example, he said, the national average number of years homeless for the vulnerable population is five — one less than in Newark. "This shows that Newark is taking significant steps to end homelessness in the city," he said.

Craig and Dale Smith, a father-and-son team from Stewartsville, were two of the volunteers who spent three days during the early morning hours in June, canvassing Newark streets to survey the city's homeless for the project. 

"Homelessness throughout the country is a large problem and this campaign's effort of doing housing first … is a way to solve that," said Dale Smith, 63, about the Newark 50 project.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker said the city is directly addressing the problem of homelessness through this program. "You all are helping develop ... the angels of our community," he told the small crowd Tuesday, as they gathered in council chambers. "So, my call to you is not to action, but to continue the action."

Booker teamed up with Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. last year to launch a 10-year campaign to address homelessness in the county.

A January 2009 Point-in-Time report, which measures the county's homeless population, put the total number, including children, at roughly 1,738 in Essex County. Of those, 938 adults and 504 children were in Newark. A county report states, though, raw data from that survey, shows "a more accurate annualized estimate" of homeless residents in Essex County is between 3,700 and 3,900.

Janel Winter, associate director of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, told the audience Tuesday that programs, such as Newark 50, are "cost-effective" ways to end homelessness.

"It's expensive to manage homelessness," she said. "Having people living on the streets, shuffling between shelters, jail(s) and going in and out of emergency departments and hospitals is pretty much the most inefficient way to provide care you can think of … "

Bryan said survey results show inpatient and emergency room costs for the 116 people totaled roughly $1.4 million annually. That's roughly $6,641 per person for a three-day hospital stay or roughly $1,452 per person for an emergency room visit.

Winter said it costs about $15,000 a year to house one person.

Dale Smith, who said he and his son plan to take the Newark 50 model to Stewartsville in Warren County, said the cash saved from less medical visits by homeless people can help fuel similar housing programs, "By taking the money spent from having the homeless people going to ERs … and spending that instead towards their housing … that will save money and end (homelessness)."

Read all of the survey results by clicking the PDF above and to the right with other multimedia.

andre salazar July 28, 2011 at 09:50 PM
Question: How is housing the homeless more cost effective? If housing ech of 116 people costs 15,000 then the annual cost would be abou 1.7 million which is greater then the 1.4 milion racked up in hosptial bills. And that's assuming that hospital bills go down to zero. I can see the benefit if you calculate cost of crime, impronment, and shelter in as well but that's only an assumption given I don't know the numbers on any of those things.
andre salazar July 28, 2011 at 09:51 PM
Good article btw. Very interesting. How can I help out

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