Back in September, Houston Mayor Bill White announced a public service campaign called "Real Change, Not Spare Change." That campaign called on locals to stop giving money to panhandlers on street corners, and instead send donations to the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County. So far, the Coalition has received about $25,000 as a result of the PSA's. Houston Downtown Management District President Bob Eury says those donations resulted in other sources of funding which will enable the Coalition to immediately place people into permanant housing.
"What's encouraging about this is really the whole thought of let's house folks first, okay let's get a roof over their head and then we can start working with the various conditions that they have to make it happen. We'd love to do this in a lot larger numbers than we have right now, but you've got to start somewhere with this."
The Housing Finance Corporation and Central Houston, Inc. gave challenge grants totalling $125,000 toward the Rapid Re-Housing. Coalition President Anthony Love says they're targeting chronic homelessness.
"The key word is chronic homeless and chronic homeless is that long-term homelessness. And the idea is that when you end chronic homelessness it means that you're putting the infrastructure in place so that when a person falls into homelessness that we don't look up three years later and that person is still homeless because there's nothing there for them."
The Mayor's Homeless Housing Task Force has a goal to end chronic homelessness within ten years. Former City Councilman Gordon Quan is on that task force and says people who go through the Rapid Re-Housing program will immediately be off the streets and will start receiving services like case management, substance abuse counseling and mental health services.
"We're serious about it. It's not just a patchwork job we're doing, but looking strategically at long-term solutions."
The city plans to place 20-30 people in housing every month with the goal of getting 300 people permanently off the streets by the end of 2007. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio news.