Mayor Kerry J. 

Coordinated Strategy to Prevent Homelessness

Description of Program

As early as 1984, when Alexandria began experiencing a growth in homelessness, the City Council adopted a Policy Statement on Homelessness which reads in part: "the City of Alexandria accepts responsibility for providing leadership in the development of community-wide partnerships and strategies with religious institutions and private organizations in order to address the needs of the homeless and to prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless." The policy established five major goals.:

  • assessment of the need for additional year-round shelter, and development of alternative options
  • provision of services enabling the homeless to become self-sufficient to the maximum extent possible
  • continued coordination of services for the homeless, and the establishment of additional series and facilities within the private sector
  • expansion of cooperative efforts with neighboring jurisdictions for coordination and sharing of services and facilities
  • evaluation of efforts directed at the homeless problem

Through the collaborative efforts and actions of the private and public sectors, the goals established by the policy statement have systematically evolved into a Continuum of Care for homeless services. A Homeless Task Force collected date to identify immediate needs facing the homeless. Facilities were planned and built, and programs were created to address the identified needs. The two year-round emergency shelters added 195 beds to the inventory and represent 86 percent of the available shelter beds in the community.

In 1989, the initial task force evolved into a larger and more diverse group, the Homeless Services Coordinating Committee (HSCC). The HSCC is a collaborative, community based group with representatives from business, the religious community, emergency shelter providers, transitional housing providers, settlement houses, community non-profits, emergency assistance providers, advocacy groups, public human service agencies, formerly homeless persons, and independent citizens.

The HSCC was established to serve the community as an advisory group of homeless issues and accomplish a variety of functions: information-sharing, advocacy, date collecting, planning, developing and implementing policies, and establishing priorities for homeless services. This well-established public-private partnership within the City of Alexandria, and the commitment to a holistic approach of service delivery to homeless and at-risk of homeless persons resulted in the development of a Continuum of Care. The Continuum of Care, a flexible and evolving strategy, is continually revised and updated to identify service gaps, strategies, and priorities.

The City of Alexandria recognizes that persons face homelessness for multitude of reasons and circumstances that may require specialized services. The Continuum of Care serves all homeless populations through a progressive, comprehensive, and accessible service system. The Continuum of Care includes: outreach, intake, and assessment, as well as homeless prevention, domestic violence intervention, emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and permanent housing. Each service component is based on individual assessments and comprehensive case management. The goal is to promote stability, self-support, and independence.

When and Why It Was Created

The HSCC was created in 1989 as an offshoot of the Homelessness Task Force that had been created in 1987 to address the loss of the City largest church shelter. Currently, the primary function of the HSCC has been to identify service inventory and service gaps, and develop a Continuum of Care. The first Continuum of Care was developed to meet HUD requirements for the Supportive Housing Program.

Measurements of Effectiveness

Each program/service within the Continuum of Care has developed its own program performance measures. For example, three and six month follow-up assessments on prevention cases are administered to determine the percentage of people maintaining stable housing, and the percentage of shelter residents successfully moving on to transitional or permanent housing, or continuing treatment programs is measured.

Financing of the Program

Each administering agency operating a component of the Continuum of Care finances the individual effort with local, state, federal, and private monies. Homeless prevention efforts are funded with $359,657 in local monies, $320,000 in state monies, and $30,000 in private monies. Emergency shelter programs, including domestic violence services, are funded with $771,933 in local monies, $96,637 in state monies, $127,055 in federal monies, and $83,633 in private monies. Transitional housing services are funded with $21,640 in local monies, $83,540 in state monies, $312,322 in federal monies, and $560,528 in private monies. Permanent supportive housing programs are funded with $854,350 in local monies, $506,600, in state monies, $526,00 in federal monies, and $2,339,000 in private monies. Permanent housing programs are also funded with local, state, federal, and private monies.

Linkage to City Government

As noted in "Financing of the Program," many of the programs within the Continuum of Care receive municipal financial support. Further, many of the services offered under the Continuum of Care are provided cooperatively to local government and non-profit homeless service providers. The creation of the HSCC was initiated by City government action. City government human service providers (mental health, substance abuse, mental retardation, child care, housing, and homeless services) are participants in the HSCC, and partners with the private sector in the development and administration of the Continuum of Care.

Major Lessons

Broad based participation from various sectors of the community is critical to the development of the Continuum of Care. A thorough service inventory should initiate the process and must include a realistic analysis of service gaps.

Contact Person: Nelson Smith, Director City of Alexandria Department of Human Services Office of Economic Opportunities 2525 Mt. Vernon Avenue Alexandria, VA 22301 Telephone: (703) 838-0901 Fax: (703)836-2104

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352

Copyright 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.