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Housing first is primary goal

Area advocates take renewed aim at homelessness

February 04, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Hoping to take advantage of the state's changing approach to homelessness, representatives of area social services gathered at the library Wednesday in what participants hope is the first of a years-long collaborative effort on the issue.

"The resources are becoming more available," said organizer Laura Kaplan, director of the Southbridge Interfaith Housing Network. "It's just a matter of connecting people with those resources."

According to Worcester Director of Homelessness Assistance Thomas Gregory, dealing with homelessness has undergone "significant changes" just in the last year to a "Housing First" framework. In that system, homeless people are helped to find permanent, subsidized housing before being linked to other services.

For years, the city's — and region's — main homeless shelter has been the People in Peril (PIP) Shelter on Main Street, Worcester, but that has been shifting from being a facility where many people were essentially long-term residents to one that provides 20 to 25 "assessment and triage beds" intended to link people to a "continuum of care," he said. Among the services involved are short-term housing subsidies, drug treatment, counseling, job placement help and various family services coordinated by new case managers, he said.

"There will always be a need for a safety net for people to move through the new system," he said, later observing the program includes outreach workers "to find and engage the street homeless, who are hidden on the periphery of society."

In all cases, Gregory added, the people "are expected to work on a plan for self-sufficiency."

See Friday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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