Plan to end homelessness in Hennepin County advances

The Hennepin County Board has approved a 10-year plan to end homelessness in the county - a sweeping plan that calls for stepped-up efforts to prevent homelessness, increased street outreach and the development of more affordable housing opportunities, among other things.

The report, &#8220Heading Home Hennepin,” starts out with a scene from Downtown: &#8220To see the face of hopelessness, drive Currie Avenue at the northern edge of downtown Minneapolis just before the doors of Secure Waiting open at 8:30 p.m. You'll see men pushed to the edges of our community, disenfranchised from society, immobilized by feelings of despair - men who have been marginalized, criminalized and stigmatized. They are the homeless of Hennepin County.”

Prepared by the Hennepin County and city of Minneapolis Commission to End Homelessness, the plan has six broad goals, 30 recommendations and 50 action steps intended to end homelessness by 2016.

County commissioners signed off on the plan Nov. 28, and the City Council approved it Dec. 1.

Highlights of the commission's recommendations include:

– Expanding the county's Family Homeless Prevention Assistance Program;

– Adopting a zero-tolerance policy for discharging people from public systems into homelessness;

– Developing a 24/7 coordinated system of outreach workers helping people on the streets;

– Increasing medical outreach and access to primary medical and mental health care services;

– Preserving the county's stock of affordable and supportive housing and creating 5,000 new housing options over the next 10 years;

– Connecting homeless adults with living-wage jobs; and

– Improving truancy intervention programs for at-risk and homeless youth.

The 70-member commission, which includes leaders from government, the faith and philanthropic communities, social services organizations, as well as homeless and formerly homeless citizens, first met in March to begin developing this plan.

&#8220Through the Commission to End Homelessness, all sectors of the community have come together to produce a very specific plan that will end homelessness for men, women, children and youth,” said Cathy ten Broeke, the city-county coordinator to end homelessness, in a prepared statement. &#8220There is an unprecedented level of commitment, and the board's involvement will help to leverage even more communitywide support.”

To execute the plan, commission members estimate that it will cost $45 million over three years. Funding for the plan is expected to come from both the public and private sector.

To see the 101-page report, go to www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/homelessness/.