Raleigh city council approves $5M program to tackle homelessness, which has doubled since 2020

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Tuesday, May 7, 2024
Raleigh city council approves $5M program to tackle homelessness
The city said homelessness has doubled in Raleigh since the pandemic.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Raleigh City Council approved a pilot program Tuesday that would allocate $5 million to help reduce homelessness, which the city said has doubled in Raleigh since the pandemic.

Some of that money would go directly to homeless people to help them get into permanent housing, then they would receive funding to keep them in stable housing. The money also goes toward case managers, other services, and improvements to existing affordable housing units.

Raleigh Housing & Neighborhoods Department Director Emila Sutton told the City Council during her presentation Tuesday that each person experiencing chronic homelessness costs the city roughly $35,000 per year.

Part of that cost comes from clearing camps, which she said costs cities $1,600 to $6,200 per person per year to clear encampments. When those camps are cleared, it leaves people living in them with no place to go.

"That's not a solution to homelessness. Neither is managing homelessness with things like emergency shelter and other expensive and temporary strategies," Sutton said.

The goal of the program is to address what Sutton contended was the root cause of homelessness - loss of income.

"The solution to ending homelessness is to increase incomes and or lower their housing costs. To put a finer point on it, homelessness is not a mental health problem," Sutton said, going on to say that mental health and substance use are risk factors for homelessness, but that research shows loss of income is the single biggest factor.

The approach of giving money directly to people who are experiencing homelessness is modeled after successful programs in other cities. The Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation's program provides money directly to program participants ensuring they don't pay more than 30% of their income toward housing.

"There's been no increase in what are called temptation goods spending, so things like alcohol, illegal substances, gambling, et cetera," said Sutton about the program in Philadelphia.

Sutton said people instead spent money on things like rent, transportation, healthcare, and hygiene in programs in other cities.

The city also addressed the narrative that people in these situations who are offered help won't take it, saying that 95% of people living in homeless camps said yes to this housing when it was offered in other cities.

Raleigh's pilot program will allocate $3,01 million to direct housing assistance, split between the administrative costs such as hiring case managers and the money given directly to program participants, and $1,990,000 to affordable housing unit repairs.

Sutton said this program provides a three-pronged approach: direct housing assistance, homelessness system support, and coordinated community response.

The program was passed unanimously by the City Council on Tuesday.