February 16, 2013

Another View: City homelessness plan well-intentioned, but costly


As a case manager in Portland, I know firsthand that while the city may have great intentions behind its policies to assist people who are homeless, the implementation has a history of falling flat.

I am concerned about how the city of Portland plans to implement the recommendations of the Homeless Prevention Task Force without yet having an independent estimate of how to provide services in a way that does not unbalance the FY 2014 budget.

While I am very pleased to see the recommendation that the city provide case management services to adults who would normally be unable to acquire this service, effective case management involves at least weekly contact with a client, often for a period of years, which can become very costly to the city.

I have seen many well-intended plans change or disband quickly once the funding is lost, and giving people the opportunity to be involved in a program and then taking it away after truly discovering what the cost is has potential to be very damaging.

You can put someone into "housing first," but without the ability to help them maintain it after long-term homelessness, they will quickly be returning to the shelter.

In order to help people not just obtain a housing placement but sustain it, the FY 2014 budget must include provisions to help people maintain their housing, whether by providing case management supports or by restructuring existing policies to live with the same dignity and privileges the rest of us are afforded.

Jenna Nunziato is a resident of Portland.

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