By Adam Swift
A recent homelessness impact study praises the city for its immediate response to the Covid-19 crisis, but lays out a number of recommendations for a more coordinated approach with local and state public and private stakeholders to establish a more focused long-term strategy to address homelessness in Revere.
The City Councilâ€™s health and human services subcommittee met Monday night to review the study, which was conducted for the cityâ€™s Substance Use Disorder and Homeless Initiatives (SUDHI) by Lori Pampilo Harris, who has worked on homelessness strategies for cities and states across the country.
Harris praised the SUDHI office and the cityâ€™s rapid response to homelessness during the Covid crisis, but noted that the cityâ€™s housing response system is not at the scale or level of alignment to reverse the current trends of homelessness.
As is true throughout the country, Harris said that the major driving force behind the rise of homelessness in Revere is the lack of affordable housing.
Harris said it is important for the city to adopt a Housing First approach to ending homelessness. The nationally recognized approach to ending homelessness prioritizes finding permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness.
The current strengths of the community in the fight against homelessness include a can-do attitude and spirit of innovation, a culture of compassion and empathy in the city, and a commitment to harm reduction and whole person treatment through the leadership of the SUDHI office and city leadership.
However, Harris said there were plenty of opportunities to improve the cityâ€™s response through coming up with short- and long-term goals, increasing public-private partnerships, and hiring dedicated staff to deal with homelessness issues.
â€œThere was no unifying theory of change governing all resources being deployed to prevent and end homelessness,â€ Harris said.
One of the major recommendations in the impact study is the creation of an ending homelessness action plan.
â€œIt provides direction for elected officials and staff about where to dedicate resources and offers a way to measure progress and success,â€ said Harris. â€œWhether the plan is for one year or for multiple years, it is likely to include multiple individual actions or strategies that may or may not be related.â€
The city would also want to consider if it wants to double down on the SUDHI office coordinating with local organizations to oversee the homelessness initiatives.
â€œIf you donâ€™t have a target, you wonâ€™t hit it,â€ Harris said. â€œCreating a homelessness action plan will give you a target to help you to understand where to focus the very finite resources that are available locally, through the Commonwealth, and also through HUD. I also recommended that you discuss and explore implementing a public-private collective impact leadership group for Revere.â€
That group would coordinate and connect the various funding sources and services that impact homelessness initiatives and help oversee those resources.
Other recommendations included creating permanent affordable housing options in the city, whether through working with public organizations or private landlords.
â€œThere is also a significant need to increase staff and focus their efforts purely on homelessness in Revere,â€ said Harris. Some of those positions include a homelessness response system coordinator and housing navigators to help people either experiencing or in danger of becoming homeless navigate the resources available to them.