CityLine: March 27, 2001, New York City & White Plains
The Westchester County Department of Social Services has declared its experimental effort to house mentally ill, single homeless adults first and treat them later, successful.
The program has been productive enough to extend for another year, housing 54 of 120 on the County's "most hard-to-place," mentally ill single homeless adults in less than nine months, according to Nancy Travers, Deputy Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Social Services, who told WPCNR this week she considered the program "a success."
Since we interviewed Ms. Travers, Susan Erway of the Department of Community Mental Health reported more placings through Westcares, swelling the number of placements to 71.
The initiative took 120 mentally ill single homeless adults identified by the DSS and the Department of Community Mental Health as the most "hard-to-place" individuals and contracted four agencies to find immediate housing for them.
The Department of Social Services was strongly criticised by homeless advocates for bringing in a New York City agency, Pathways to Housing, Inc., which pioneered the immediate housing in the community concept in the last nine years.
Now one year later, Pathways to Housing, and Westcares, the consortium selected by the Department of Community Mental Health under Stephen J. Friedman, which includes Sharing Community in Yonkers, Human Developmental Services of Westchester (Port Chester), and Planned Community Living (Tarrytown) have succeeded in placing 54 persons who have been in and out of county homeless shelters for years with 53 of them not causing any reported problems or having to return to the shelter. One client had to be rehoused, but has since returned to their apartment, according to Travers.
Pathways to Housing contract extended using money not used in previous contract.
Dr. Sam Tsemberis, whose organization was recently featured on National Public Radio program, All Things Considered, reported to WPCNR that Pathways has placed 32 clients given his organization by the County to house, and that he has 5 more clients in the process of being placed. This from a client list of 60 about the first of May last year.
To date, Tsemberis reports no client placed has caused any problems with neighbors in the apartments where they have been housed.
Westcares, the Department of Community Mental Health consortium handling 60 such clients selected by the DCMH, Travers reports has placed 23 of their roster of 60, however they have only had their list since approximately June or 9 months.
Susan Erway, Program Director of Community Support Services for the Department of Community Mental Health reported updated figures to WPCNR reporting more persons placed in Peekskill, Mt. Vernon, and White Plains, bringing the Westcares total to 39.
Tsemberis said that some $900,000 remains unspent from the previous Pathways contract, and the Pathways contract has been renewed for approximately that amount. Ms. Travers confirmed today that the Pathways new contract "was not an expansion, but unspent money from last year, plus a few more units(clients to place)."
Travers said about 20 more clients might be given to Pathways to house, but said the program could be slowed due to Pathways and other agencies being able to find single apartments around the county.
Placement of homeless dispersed around county.
Travers said of the persons Pathways had placed as of February 1, her last monthly report, were housed in the following communities:
White Plains: 7
Mount Vernon: 4
New Rochelle: 2
Out of County: 5
Ms. Travers reports that Westcares has placed persons in the following Westchester County communities at the time of the last report she received, and these figures include the updated figures Ms. Erway included for Peekskill, Mt. Vernon, White Plains and Yonkers:
Mount Vernon: 4
New Rochelle: 1
White Plains: 2
Out of County: 2
(Cortland, Ossining, Tuckahoe and Out of County placements were reported by Ms. Travers; Peekskill, Mt. Vernon, White Plains, Yonkers totals by Ms. Erway)
Program gives birth to new initiative-- "Jump Start" to extend conceptto employed homeless who cannot afford housing.
Ms. Travers also said that Sheltering Community in Yonkers has modeled a new program after the Pathways to Housing initiative which they hope to extend to employed homeless persons who are not earning enough to afford a place of their own.
Travers added that the program, named "Jump Start" is currently seeking funding from the federal government and was developed as a direct result of the success of the joint Pathways to Housing and Westchester Cares efforts.
Erway reports program is "working very well," for Department of Community Mental Health Westcares group.
Susan Erway reporting to WPCNR said the program has only had their names since June, 2000 (about 9 months). She said using the Pathways model is "working very well, we've placed 25 of 60 (in Yonkers, Peekskill, Mt. Vernon, White Plains) and hope to have 30 to 40 by the end of the time."
Erway explained that St. Vincents Hospital in Harrison is handling the clinical portion of the program for the other three agencies, administering to the health and rehabilitation needs of the clients. The three agencies handling the placements are:Sharing Community in Yonkers, Human Developmental Services of Westchester (Port Chester), and Planned Community Living (Tarrytown).
Clients agreeing to be placed through Westcares, Erway said, agree to turn over their SSI payment management to Westcares, in return for the housing, and agree to be visited by Westcares twice a month. That is the only stipulation.
"I have not had any negative feedback," Erway reported.
She said that the three agencies have a problem finding apartments in Westchester, echoing the key issue that Dr. Sam Tsemberis feels has kept his Pathways program from placing more clients faster.
"Westchester has always been a challenge. (Our) agencies have done a good job of getting out there and finding apartments. They go through established housing agencies to find housing for the most part."
Erway says the mobile health unit of St. Vincents is working out well in serving clients at their apartments, saying that when they are having a problem, they are able to assist them efficiently: "They spend a lot of service hours visiting people living outside the shelters."
Erway expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the Pathways to Housing concept: "It is a very unique way of approaching the (chronically) homeless. People are working very hard within the program, we are housing 3 to 4 more people every month."
She said the reaction of those housed through the Westcares initiative was positive: "After years in the mental health system, the clients are willing to do this after many years of homelessness. They're very grateful about having a place to live."