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Home >Case Studies >Dayton, Ohio: A Creative and Collaborative Plan to End Chronic Homelessness

 

Dayton, Ohio: A Creative and Collaborative Plan to End Chronic Homelessness

 

Dayton, Ohio’s 10-Year Plan for Ending Chronic Homelessness and Reducing Overall Homelessness, adopted in 2006, won the 2016 American Planning Association/HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award. The Dayton plan was recognized for bringing together public, private, and nonprofit groups in the city and Montgomery County in a “creative, coordinated, and collaborative approach” to assist persons experiencing or threatened by homelessness. The Dayton region has made great strides toward realizing the plan’s ambitious goals to reduce the rate of overall homelessness and end chronic homelessness.

A Plan with Multiple Stakeholders

When the planning process began in 2004, more than 6,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Montgomery County. Among them were families with children (61%), youth aged 11 to 17 (5%), and those experiencing chronic homelessness The plan, as adopted in 2006, defines “chronic homelessness” as a single adult with a disability (such as mental illness or drug or alcohol addiction) who has spent more than a year on the streets or in emergency shelters or who has been homeless repeatedly over several years. (6%). The plan concludes that the region’s efforts to assist these people imposed “staggering” personal and economic costs in shelter, emergency room, and hospital stays and in incarceration.

The Dayton plan identifies novel approaches to correcting an entrenched problem. Rather than spending public funds on emergency responses such as shelters and jails, the plan calls for the community to move from managing homelessness to ending it. The awards panel praised the plan for bringing together housing and service providers to develop a cohesive system that includes systematized assessments of people experiencing homelessness, aligned funding, and evaluations of the plan’s performance.

A Homeless Solutions Leadership Team developed the plan over two years. Co-chaired by the city and county administrators, the team included representatives from the criminal justice system, health and human services organizations, local businesses, and housing, education, and mental health programs. The team decided to examine the perspectives and experiences of many area groups because homelessness affects the entire region. To understand what factors lead to homelessness and how people experience it, the team interviewed 41 people who were currently experiencing homelessness or had previously experienced homelessness. The team surveyed numerous organizations directly involved in the region’s homeless system, asking respondents to prioritize improvements to the system. The team then analyzed information generated from meetings with shelter and housing providers to identify the system’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and advance the paradigm shift from managing homelessness to ending it.

As the Leadership Team analyzed these data, four principles emerged to guide the plan’s policies and implementation. One basic principle for understanding homelessness is that homelessness and poverty are inextricably connected; poverty exacerbates other factors that lead to homelessness, such as substance abuse or mental illness. In addition, early intervention and prevention of homelessness are key strategies to ultimately end homelessness, through programs such as emergency support to help keep people housed. Another principle is that access to affordable housing, along with supportive services when needed, is the best tool to end homelessness. Finally, when people do find themselves facing homelessness, the response should coordinate many providers and funding streams so that people can efficiently obtain the services they need. These four principles have guided the plan’s implementation.

Implementing the Collaborative Model

The United Way of Greater Dayton, the city of Dayton, and Montgomery County took the lead in implementing the plan. These organizations coordinate public, private, and nonprofit services throughout the region to deliver an integrated response that provides early intervention and collective impact. For instance, case managers are trained in the Housing First approach using a common manual, “Case Management: Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness.” In addition, staff from various organizations have been trained in ensuring client safety, recognizing overdoses, administering mental health first aid, and understanding the Medicaid program.

The plan’s principle of coordinating housing and service providers is also evident in the region’s “front door” to the homelessness system. This entry includes an assessment of a person’s housing needs when they first encounter any shelter or outreach provider. The assessment ensures that people have a “common, consistent evaluation of [their] needs,” says Jessica Jenkins, assistant director of Montgomery County’s Human Services Planning and Development Department. The Dayton region was one of the first places in the country to develop such a tool, which has served as a model for other homelessness prevention and reduction plans.

Achievements and Continued Collaborative Work

Providers in the Dayton region have been diligently implementing the plan since its adoption. By 2016, the region added 767 permanent supportive housing units, exceeding the plan’s goal of 750. Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the region has also ended veteran homelessness, as defined by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Point-in-time counts indicate that chronic homelessness has also decreased by 75 percent, from 120 persons in 2007 to 30 in 2017, and providers are working to end chronic homelessness by the 2018 point-in-time count.

Now that the stakeholder groups have created a coordinated system, Jenkins says, their next challenge is to maximize performance and efficiency. One way to do so is to use data gathered at one point in the system to prepare for responses elsewhere. For example, a rising number of visits to a food pantry might indicate a future increase in the rate of homelessness, suggesting the need to step up efforts to prevent homelessness. Such interventions will also help providers reach the 2019 goals to reduce the 3,500 homeless households by 500 and help 85 percent of people who become homeless obtain successful outreach placements in a shelter, transitional housing, or permanent housing. To advance these goals, a permanent supportive housing development will open in October 2017. The 40-unit building, whose wraparound supportive services include medical, mental, and behavioral health, as well as employment assistance, will further reduce the number of chronically homeless people in the region.


 

Source:

Homeless Solutions Leadership Team. 2006. “A Blueprint for Ending Chronic Homelessness and Reducing Overall Homelessness in Dayton and Montgomery County, OH.” Accessed 9 June 2017.

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Source:

Homeless Solutions Leadership Team. 2006. “A Blueprint for Ending Chronic Homelessness and Reducing Overall Homelessness in Dayton and Montgomery County, OH.” Accessed 9 June 2017.

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Source:

Homeless Solutions Leadership Team. 2006. “A Blueprint for Ending Chronic Homelessness and Reducing Overall Homelessness in Dayton and Montgomery County, OH.” Accessed 9 June 2017.

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Source:

American Planning Association. n.d. “2016 National Planning Excellence Award: HUD Secretary’s Opportunity & Empowerment Award — Homeless Solutions Community 10-Year Plan.” Accessed 9 June 2017; Homeless Solutions Policy Board. 2015. “Case Management: Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness.” Accessed 20 June 2017; Montgomery County Human Services Planning & Development Department. 2014. “Annual Report,” 66–9. Accessed 20 June 2017.

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Source:

Interview with Jessica Jenkins, 10 July 2017.

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Source:

PLACES. 2017. “PLACES Fills Unique Role in Web of Behavioral Health Services,” Going Places (Winter), 2–3. Accessed 9 June 2017; Interview with Jessica Jenkins, 10 July 2017; Correspondence from Jessica Jenkins, 17 July 2017; Ohio Housing Finance Agency, Office of Affordable Housing Research and Strategic Planning. 2017. “Ohio Housing Needs Assessment: Technical Supplement to the Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Plan,” 103. Accessed 14 July 2017.

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Source:

Interview with Jessica Jenkins, 10 July 2017; Document provided by Jessica Jenkins; Dayton/Kettering/Montgomery County Continuum of Care. 2016. “FY 2016 CoC Application.” Accessed 13 July 2017; Correspondence from Jessica Jenkins, 17 July 2017.

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