barbara-sharief_web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE — People walk by them each day. They have become a part of the landscape along every commute route and are often ignored and overlooked. These are the chronically homeless, individuals living on the street and most vulnerable due to mental health issues, physical disabilities or other medical challenges.

Broward County will work to identify and prioritize the most vulnerable and chronically homeless and prioritize their needs for home placement as part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign.

The campaign is a national movement in more than 175 communities geared to finding permanent homes for the homeless. In its most recent count, 413 chronically homeless individuals and families were identified in the county. 

In conjunction with the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, Palm Beach County and the Broward Homeless Initiative Partnership, the 100,000 Homes Campaign is hosting a two-day boot camp at the Anne Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood to train advocates for the homeless from around the state.

There are three primary goals of the training. The first is to identify every homeless person on the streets of the county by name. Those identified will be measured in the Vulnerability Index which will include the person’s name, photo, health conditions and any institutional and social histories. This will allow the county to better match people with the appropriate housing subsidy and setting.

Second, attendees will learn how to track and measure their local housing rates against clear monthly goals. All participating communities must work toward a minimum monthly goal of 2.5 percent housing of their chronically homeless population, putting this on track to end homelessness for this group in approximately four years.

The final goal of this initiative is to improve local tracking systems to make housing simpler, faster and more efficient. The gains in efficiency might include reduced times in housing a single individual, improved outreach and more targeted services and delivery.

“Programs that will be put in place in the coming months will allow us to have our chronically homeless off the streets by 2015, with substantial improvement during the next year,” said Broward County Commission Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief, who initiated a commission-approved partnership with the Broward Sheriff’s Office to fund the system.

“Broward’s new Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) will be used to register the neediest among the homeless.  This will help us track who is out there, prioritize their needs and assist in identifying housing opportunities,” she said.

Each year, the county releases the results of the Broward County Point-in-Time Count.  It was conducted this year in a 24-hour period on Jan. 24-25. The county concluded that 2,810 individuals and families were homeless according to the federal definition of homelessness: living in places not meant for human habitation, emergency shelters or transitional housing programs. The count is required by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Florida’s Office on Homelessness.

An additional 783 people were counted as “at-risk” of homelessness, generally defined as an individual or family seeking permanent housing but who stayed the previous night at an institution; a hotel paid by self; a jail, prison or detention center; or a family or friend’s house; facing imminent eviction; or in foster care.

“While the Homeless Point-in-Time Count used to be conducted every other year, we are now doing this annually to get better results that help meet the more stringent requirements from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,” said Michael Wright, administrator of the Broward County Homeless Initiative Partnership.

The 2013 point in count results also showed that the total number of sheltered and unsheltered persons experiencing homelessness in the county decreased by 12 percent, from 3,183 to 2,810, and the number of unsheltered persons decreased by 35 percent, from 1,268 to 829, based on HUD’s biennial Point-in-Time count and survey as compared to the same count done in January 2011-12.

“November is National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Month and we want to start now to bring attention to the cause,” Wright said.

The efforts are part of Broward County’s A Way Home – Florida’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.