[Note: This was originally distributed to City Council, County Commission, and the TYP Advisory Board as a stand-alone weekly update.]
Knoxville City Council invited the Ten-Year Plan to a workshop last Thursday evening to discuss the TYP’s communications plan and to hear from Brad Greene, the systems engineering consultant who is helping to refine the system of service delivery to people who are homeless. We’re grateful to City Council for the opportunity to provide a significant update, and we’re also grateful for the meaningful engagement offered by Council members in attendance.
Council held a public forum at the end of the workshop and several members of the community spoke, most of them to express support. One remark calls for some illumination.
In his public forum comments, Ron Peabody reported that Sam Tsemberis’ New York-based group, Pathways to Housing, had housed a mere 600 people there. Mr. Peabody asked how can that be considered success, given the size of New York’s homeless population.
Once again, Mr. Peabody misinterprets and misuses data in what seems to be an effort to create false impressions. The report that Mr. Peabody referenced was Pathways to Housing’s 2007 annual report (you can get your own copy here at Pathways’ Research Library), which notes 585 people housed by their organization. What Mr. Peabody appeared to insinuate in his use of this figure is that Tsemberis, a noted leader in the Housing First movement, and his organization, Pathways to Housing, represent the failure of the Housing First approach.
What Mr. Peabody left out of his analysis is the fact that Pathways to Housing operates in a number of cities, and that the number reported in their 2007 annual report is for their organization in all those locations. Mr. Peabody insinuated that the referenced number was the sum total of people housed in supportive housing in New York City. This is a substantial misrepresentation.
In fact, New York City has made great strides in reducing chronic homelessness and serves as an excellent example of the success of Housing First. Pathways to Housing is only one of many organizations offering permanent supportive housing in New York City. According to New York’s 2009 Continuum of Care report to HUD, NYC has 13,167 Permanent Supportive Housing beds for single individuals, 6,299 for mixed populations, and 4,651 PSH beds for families.
Dr. Tsemberis is a nationally respected leader and researcher in efforts to end homelessness. In fact, he was a featured panelist at a HUD conference in Atlanta attended by TYP staff member Michael Dunthorn this week. In Dr. Tsemberis’ presentation on “Housing First” as an important component of the national effort to end homelessness, he noted that research evidence continues to demonstrate that Housing First yields high residential stability, with 85% annual retention rates in this type of housing; reduction in residents’ utilization of publicly resourced services; improved mental health status for residents; reductions in drug and alcohol consumption, and cost effectiveness as compared to the status quo.
Thank you for taking the time to be engaged with the issue of homelessness and our community’s work to address it. If you have questions or concerns about anything related to the TYP, please do not hesitate to let us know.