UPDATE on CoC Response to the COVID-19 Crisis
On March 27, 2020 Mayor Allen Join issued the first Stay at Home order to address the spread of COVID-19 in our community. As of April 14, 2020 this order has been extended through May 7, 2020. For people who have no home, this order presents numerous challenges. The CoC, in partnership with the Forsyth County, Forsyth County DSS, Forsyth County Department of Public Health, City of Winston-Salem have developed a four part plan to address the needs of people experience homelessness. The focus of this plan it to keep people experiencing homelessness as healthy as possible through education, enhancing screening and management of space at the emergency shelters and options to shelter in place as well as isolation/quarantine. This plan includes:
- Opening, in partnership with Forsyth County, a shelter option for people experiencing homelessness who have been tested for COVID-19 or otherwise ordered to quarantine/isolate because of COVID-19.
- Opening, in partnership with the City of Winston-Salem, a shelter option for people who are medially fragile to have 24/7 shelter-in-place option.
- Providing technical assistance to the mass shelters in order to enhance the program’s ability to implement CDC recommendations for managing mass shelters during the pandemic.
- Providing on-going outreach, education and hygiene stations to campers/people sleeping outside.
Weekly briefings on the progress of this plan can be found here:
Community Commitment to Ending Homelessness
We, the community of WSFC commit to develop and sustain a system of care that will end veteran homelessness by 12/31/15 and chronic homelessness by 12/31/16 and all homelessness by 12/31/20 by providing on-going support and development so that individuals and families connect with appropriate resources that enable them to live self-sufficient self-determined lives.
Ending Chronic Homelessness
As of September 16, 2019 that our two longest un-housed participants in PSH have been housed! Each of them had been matched with a PSH program for over 180 days before they were housed. For each of them it took a team supporting them before they were able to get housed. For one of them, an outreach worker drove them around for weeks looking for just the right place. I am pleased to report that she is in her new apartment and very happy. There are now only 11 folks matched to PSH who are not housed. They have an average time from match to PSH of 87 days.
Our By Name List and our Not By-name list have both seen reductions in the last few weeks. The BNL is at 20 people (11 of whom are matched to PSH but not housed) and 25 on the NBNL. Much of the attrition in this list has been to jail. However, three folks from the NBNL are housed! Thanks to the HEARRT team these three folks, who have each lived on the streets for decades are now living in-doors.
I am excited to see the numbers in both our BNL and NBNL drop this week. But one week of a drop does not a trend make. In fact, the trend has been for our chronic numbers to increase. Over the last few months as I have seen our progress on ending chronic homelessness loose traction I have spent a significant amount of time learning about affordable housing in our community—both the lack of housing and the lack of community will to invest in housing and housing policies that support all people in our community having access to safe, decent affordable housing. As I have looked into the issues that prolong people’s time homeless even after being matched to a permanent housing program, lack of available units keeps returning as a refrain.
The City of Winston-Salem has started to address the issue of housing in our community. This spring the the new Affordable Housing Coalition was started as an advisory board to the City. WFDD recently ran a multi-week series on housing in the Triad and have published highlights in a documentary called Margins. New apartments are being built downtown with a 5% set aside for “affordable units.” But there is still a lot of work to be done, and your voice will matter. Today’s call to action it to encourage you to talk with your City, County, State and Federal representatives about how hard it is for your clients (and maybe even you) to find housing in our community, and encourage them to learn more and support policies that expand the supply of safe, decent affordable housing to all people. Without it we will never see an end to homelessness.