One of the most effective ways of determining what programs and services are most needed by homeless people is to ask them. One-to-one chats are conducted by a group known as the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). Human Services has a team whose members go to places throughout the county where homeless people are known to congregate.
The friendly, non-threatening discussions build trust and rapport, enabling members to complete an assessment.
Nothing is forced; it is always the person’s choice whether he or she wishes to take advantage of public assistance. But the first step is to stop and ask, “How are you doing?” The team responds to need of the community, special request and known locations.
The history of substantive federal, state, and local funding of coordinated homeless programs and services began in 1996. That was the first year a US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Supportive Housing Programs (SHP) award was granted for a consolidated Palm Beach County application under the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act.
Before this award, local funds from multiple sources supported small programs, but this 1996 HUD SHP award introduced federal HUD funds into the local equation. Because HUD had the preponderance of funds targeting comprehensive programs and services for homeless individuals and families with children, the HUD model called the Supportive Housing Program Continuum of Care was adopted; each year since 1996, SHP applications have been written consistent with the Continuum of Care concept.
Palm Beach County Division of Human Services (‘Human Services’) was involved in the original application and continued to receive funding annually adding more programs and services. Human Services now serves as the Lead Entity, coordinating the Homeless Continuum process. The HUD SHP funding award for 2005 was $3,932,678; for 2006 it was $4,240,402 and for 2007 it was $4,289,363.
Homelessness is a very complex problem. There is seldom a single reason that a person, or a family, becomes homeless. A variety of problems increase a persons risk for homelessness including unemployment, poor physical health, mental illness, disability, substance abuse, domestic violence, or lack of affordable housing. The needs of the homeless vary to the extent that the cause of their homelessness varies.