Cold Winter Months and Our Homeless

In the  Boston Herald, (on 12/19/09) there was an article entitled “After Two Deaths, City Aims to Help Homeless Stay Warm”.

This got me thinking about what we as a city did last year to raise funds to be able to provide “Winter Protocol” or emergency winter beds.

Prior to last year, Lowell Transitional Living Center had provided winter beds without reimbursement or funds to cover the costs of providing (beyond capacity) shelter to folks in our coldest months.

Last year, LTLC had initially opted against offering this service due to funding constraints. To us, as a community, this was simply unacceptable.

As a community we got together with a fund raising team made up of men and women from Saints Medical Center, Lowell General Hospital, Lowell Community Health Center, Community Teamwork, Pathfinder, Trinity EMS and many, many more.

Through the efforts and contributions (large and small), we were able to raise $113.5K. Our initial goal was to have raised $60K, as that was the projected cost. Clearly, we exceeded all expectations and had enough funds left from last years fund raising effort to cover the cost of this years winter protocol programming.

This article got me thinking even further about how we as a network fit into this process and the progress the Merrimack Valley Regional Network has made in the area of rapidly rehousing individuals who had previously resided in emergency shelter at Lowell Transitional Living Center, resided in tents at camp sites along the river and/or slept in their vehicles..

Here are a couple of summaries on individuals we have housed thus far:

“Sally & Bob” had been homeless for more than a year. They are a married couple, have children, significant medical issues and lived in a tent..they were finally rehoused in early November. Fast forward to today..medical issues are being addressed, family relationships are being rekindled, benefits have been maximized, “Sally” will be starting the PATH program here at CTI, to become a CNA, rent is paid and day by day becoming more and more stable..

“Joe” spent the past 10 years living in a tent along the river in Methuen. Through the years, an outreach clinician out of Lawrence had kept tabs on “Joe”. Through those years, “Joe” was unwilling to come in from living in his tent. “Joe” developed a medical condition that will require significant treatment follow up. Our case manager here in Lowell, was brought to “Joe” by the outreach clinician, to his campsite on a Friday morning and by noon time, “Joe” had an apartment to live in, here in Lowell. “Joe” has begun his treatment course, not without bumps in the road so far, but “Joe” is in a much better place today through the coordinated efforts of the homeless outreach clinician from Eliot CHS, funds from the MVRN/ICHH and one of the network case managers at his side.

Since September, the Merrimack Valley Regional Network has rapidly re-housed 22 formerly (chronic) homeless individuals in Lowell and 1 in Lawrence. As we have just ramped up on staffing in Lawrence and Haverhill, the number of folks housed will increase rapidly in a very short period of time.

Our overall regional goal was to rapidly re-house 40 chronic homeless individuals across the region over the course of the 16 month period. If the numbers play out as I think they will, we have almost doubled our original work plan in terms of the numbers of individuals we would house.

Given the Merrimack Valley Regional Networks and our regional partners, the hope is that we will not experience the tragedies that were reported in Boston. Our sympathies to those two, who have passed.

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