Via the LMT:
Sojourners‘, the only homeless shelter in north central Idaho that includes housing for single men, lost essential federal funding earlier this spring. As a result, the organization has stopped admitting new residents and focused solely on placing those in its programs into alternate housing. The nonprofit will close during the months of September and October as it searches for replacement funding sources – and there’s a chance it may never reopen.
The loss of funding comes as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development works to implement a new paradigm for providing services to people who face homelessness. Steve Bonnar, executive director of Sojourners’, believes his programs still serve an important niche in the community.
THE HOUSING FIRST PRINCIPLE
This year marks a significant shift in focus to the Housing First principle.
Housing First, as HUD regional spokesman Leland Jones explained, is a principle that guides homelessness service providers to get people off the streets and into permanent housing as quickly as possible.
“The first thing you realize about people that are homeless is they don’t have a home,” Jones said. “And when you think about it, you realize a home is a pretty important place. It serves as some kind of foundation that allows them to help rebuild the rest of their lives.”
Additional services – like treatment for addictions or mental health conditions – are available by request. But unlike many homeless shelters, people who use alcohol or drugs are often not required to become sober before being admitted into a Housing First program.
“It’s better for people to be able to have a place where, if they want to drink, they can drink,” Jones said, “and it’s better that that be indoors.”
The main types of programs that employ the Housing First principle are homelessness prevention, rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing. Homelessness prevention programs work to keep those facing the threat of homelessness in their current residences by assisting with rent or payment of utilities. Rapid re-housing programs place someone who is homeless into permanent housing as quickly as possible, and then offer additional services. Permanent supportive housing programs offer long-term, affordable housing to those who are homeless and have been diagnosed with a disability, while also providing voluntary treatment and other services.