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Thursday, May 03, 2018

MAYOR WALSH ANNOUNCES NEW TEAM TO HELP MODERNIZE CITY SHELTER SYSTEM


MAYOR WALSH ANNOUNCES NEW TEAM
TO HELP MODERNIZE CITY SHELTER SYSTEM
BOSTON - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced that the City of Boston has selected Focus Strategies to help redesign Boston's emergency shelter system. Focus Strategies was chosen through a competitive RFP process that began in January; the engagement will result in a modernized emergency shelter system, designed to help people experiencing homelessness successfully exit shelter as quickly as possible.

"When we launched Boston's Way Home, I committed my administration to ending chronic and veteran homelessness," Mayor Walsh said. "Not only have we ended chronic veteran homelessness, but we have also housed more than 500 chronically homeless individuals. This is tremendous progress, but there is still much more work to be done. I'm confident that the team at Focus Strategies will help us take the next step in re-creating our emergency shelter system."  
  
Since the implementation of Boston's Way Home, the Walsh administration's plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness, the City has housed more than 1,400 formerly homeless people, including 921 homeless veterans, and over 500 chronically homeless individuals. Together, this represents more than 3,300 years of homelessness ended. In addition, the City has been able to increase the number of housing opportunities-apartments and rental vouchers-for chronically homeless individuals by 215 units or vouchers.

Boston has one of the most intensive emergency responses to homelessness in the country, offering a shelter bed to anyone in need, regardless of sobriety, criminal record, ties to the area, income, or any other barrier that other shelters often impose. As a result, more than half of all individuals entering Boston's shelter system report their last known address in a zip code outside of Boston.

On the night this year's annual Homeless Census was conducted, 1,779 individuals were using Boston's Emergency Shelter system, compared to 1,762 in 2017. These numbers are part of a national trend with HUD reporting that the number of homeless adults increased by approximately 1 percent from 2016 - 2017 nationally.  

Boston saw a decrease of more than 12 percent in the number of individuals sleeping on the street. In January 2018, there were 163 individuals sleeping on the street, as opposed to 186 in January 2017. Nationally, the number of unsheltered homeless has increased by 9 percent.

There were no families staying on the streets or unsheltered in Boston on the night of the census.

Historically, Boston has among the lowest rates of unsheltered homeless people sleeping on the streets. In addition, this year has seen significant outreach by homeless providers to assist people from moving from the street to the emergency shelter system, where new programs such as Rapid RehousingMoving On, Front Door Triage, and the Coordinated Access System can help homeless individuals find the appropriate resolution for their unique situation.  

Pine Street Inn, one of Boston's partners in Boston's Way Home, has experienced early success with these new initiatives. With a spectrum of approaches, including reunification with family or friends, permanent supportive housing, housing vouchers or diversion to treatment programs - there are many real options for men and women. In a number of cases, individuals do not need to enter shelter in the first place. In other cases, with a small amount of assistance, they are able to move out of shelter and on with their lives very quickly.

"Pine Street is pleased and grateful to be working as a partner with Mayor Walsh and his team on initiatives that help homeless men and women move out of shelter as quickly as possible - or better yet, prevent them from entering in the first place," said Lyndia Downie, Pine Street's president. "We applaud the Mayor for his deep commitment to ending veteran and chronic homelessness. We have more to do, of course, but these innovations are showing great promise," she added.

More than 4,000 new individuals enter shelters each year who have never been in a Boston shelter before; resulting in a strain put on critical shelter and housing resources. An 18-month Front Door Triage pilot at the City's four largest adult shelters revealed that of the new individuals who enter the system, many have viable alternatives other than entering shelter. Some of these shelter guests may need a different type of assistance, such as family mediation, inpatient treatment, or nursing home care to become stable in housing. In other cases, emergency shelter has become a destination for people being discharged from other types of care, such as hospitals, jails, and psychiatric facilities.

Focus Strategies will work with the City of Boston to redesign its shelter system to meet these challenges. Beginning this spring, Focus Strategies will review and analyze Boston's shelter system in order to make specific recommendations based on shelter data and the feasibility of specific solutions. Once these recommendations are complete, Focus Strategies will assist the City with putting new plans in place, including creating new tools, policies, and training materials to assist partner agencies in implementing the recommendations. Shelter management, staff, and clients will be closely consulted throughout the process.

"Focus Strategies is honored to have been chosen to assist the City of Boston and its partners to re-design emergency shelter to best meet the community's goals," said Kate Bristol, Focus Strategies' Director of Consulting. "Our passion is helping communities to reduce and end homelessness; all of Focus Strategies work is dedicated to helping communities use their local data to identify solutions that will yield the greatest possible impacts. We look forward to learning about the City's shelter system and crafting strategies that ensure housing is maintained whenever possible and that emergency shelter is able to quickly move people experiencing homelessness to housing."

The City of Boston has also expanded its scope of work around homelessness to focus on ending homelessness among youth and young adults, recently announcing that a new team, led by Matt Aronson, is utilizing the input of the newly created Youth Action Board and key city stakeholders to support young individuals experiencing homelessness. The planning process for this initiative kicked off with a daylong workshop on April 26th; when complete, the city's new plan will address gaps in Boston's emergency assistance system in order to end homelessness among youth and young adults.

Ending chronic, veteran, and youth and young adult homelessness will also require new types of housing resources. In his second inaugural address, Mayor Walsh announced the establishment of the Boston's Way Home Fund, which will raise $10 million over the course of four years; during his recent speech to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, he announced new commitments from Liberty Mutual, Partners and Suffolk for an additional $3 million. These funds will be used to create 200 new units of supportive, sustainable, permanent housing for chronically homeless men and women. 

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