Housing program reports on progress

In the past 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 Wednesday.

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.

"I'm proud of what we've done," Focht said, "but I'm ashamed of what we haven't done." He cited the case of a homeless man who froze to death two weeks ago.

Commissioners 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 has been continuously homeless for at least one year, or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

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.

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.