Sedgwick County commissioners vote to continue funding housing program for homeless

In the last two years, 96 chronically homeless people in Sedgwick County were housed in the Housing First program, according to a report presented to the county commission this morning.\

Of those, 21 left the program successfully, meaning they found steady income, entered an in-patient treatment facility, or moved to be near family.

Sixteen left unsuccessfully, either going to jail or being kicked out due to repeated lease violations.

The Housing First program is the responsibility of the oversight committee of the city-county Task Force to End Chronic Homelessness. The report was presented by Jack Focht, committee chairman.

Commissioners earlier approved spending $191,000 to fund the program for another year, the same amount the county authorized last year. They rejected a staff request to increase the amount to $196,000..

The Housing First program provides subsidized housing for the chronically homeless in apartments and other residences. A chronically homeless person is defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a person who has a disabling condition and been continuously homeless for at least one year, or had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

If income is available, a person in the program pays up to 30 percent of rent/utililities. Nineteen people are paying some rent or utilities.

As of Dec.31, 59 people remained successfully housed in the program, and all but five had been housed for more than a year, the report said. Five more had been approved and were searching for an apartment. Twenty-nine apartment units or property owners had been used in the program.

Data collected from 50 of the participants in the program showed that as of Nov. 23 there had been an 85 percent reduction in arrests of those people, an 87 percent reduction  in those who went to jail, a 57 percent reduction in emergency room visits, and a 39 percent reduction in hospitalizations.

A city-county count in 2009 found there were 384 homeless people in the county, of which 71 were considered chronically homeless.

There was no count last year. A 2011 count was taken on Jan. 26, but those results aren’t available yet.