public health concerns

Compassion That Works

FOR MORE THAN 10 years, Carmen lived on the streets around Omaha, Nebraska. Suffering from cancer and partly cut off from her family, she was a stark example of the chronically homeless people who exist all across the United States.

But in October 2010, Carmen moved into a home, where she has successfully remained since. Hers is a story of what is happening in communities nationwide that are taking part in the 100,000 Homes campaign, whose goal is to permanently house 100,000 highly vulnerable, long-term homeless individuals and families by July 2013. To date, roughly 10,700 have been housed.

The campaign, coordinated by the anti-homelessness nonprofit Community Solutions, is trying to assist “those people who we know are mostly likely to die on the street,” says Jake Maguire, the organization’s communications director. Using a “vulnerability index,” communities survey their homeless populations. Factors they are looking for include whether a person has been homeless for at least six months and whether the person is suffering from a chronic physical condition, a mental illness, and an active substance abuse problem all at the same time. Maguire says that so far there have been more than 21,000 surveys done in 38 communities nationwide.

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