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In from the cold; Homeless getting real help.

COLUMN: IN OUR OPINION

A network of public and private organizations help guide those who are down on their luck - or mentally ill, or drunk, or who have somehow lost their way - toward a pillow for the night, some sort of assistance in the morning.

In Worcester, that network has been making a concerted push to do its job better and smarter, in order to make a lasting impact in the tough battle against homelessness.

The effort is paying off.

The People in Peril shelter is closing. Social service supports are firmly in place to finally make that possible, officials say.

Another remarkable sign of progress is in the head count of the chronically homeless. The number has plunged from 197 to 2 since November 2007, according to David E. McCloskey, director of PIP - now renamed the Greater Worcester Housing Connection - citing figures from two key local nonprofit agencies: Community HealthLink and South Middlesex Opportunity Council.

"Worcester is in a class of its own," Jason Kravitz, spokesman for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, told the Sunday Telegram. He said the national rate of individual chronic homelessness declined 35 percent between 2005 and 2009, but that Worcester has done better than that - and is the largest community in the country to have nearly eliminated chronic homelessness.

This did not happen overnight. In late 2007, Worcester laid out a three-year plan. The city adopted the Housing First concept, which shifts the focus from addressing the shortfalls that lead people to seek a bed night after night, to the immediate need of a home to call their own.

In addition to developing numerous new housing units, other pieces of the puzzle include the triage center on Queen Street, appropriate service pathways staffed by dedicated professionals, and ongoing case management.

While the problem of homelessness will never disappear, Worcester has a firm handle on how to help. The city's success is one other communities can learn from, so that individuals who might have languished on the streets are given the keys to a more hopeful future.
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 26, 2011
Words:344
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