Housing the homeless in Watts

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageDana Knoll began her day around four a.m. She, and three other volunteers, walked from corner to corner around Watts surveying and interviewing over 165 people living on the streets.

Knoll is working on behalf of 100 Thousand Homes, a national movement to find and house the most vulnerable of America’s homeless.

She is learning about who they are and why they are there. She has candid conversations, gathering information that will position the homeless on a vulnerability index.

The vulnerability index is a tool organizers use to learn about the health conditions of people on the streets.

“If people don’t get off the street, their mortality would be impacted, and so, based on whether they have a chronic condition or a co-occurring disorder–meaning they have substance abuse and or mental health issues–or they’ve been on the street for longer than x number of years, they would then be considered folks, and if they’re willing, and want to get housing, we would try to help get them housed.”

On Friday, 100 thousand homes will identify five to fifteen homeless people in watts who are eligible and willing to receive help. Housing providers in watts will then offer them services that will place them in their new homes.

For the most part, the people Knoll has identified have been receptive to her efforts.

“Sometimes they’re not as forthcoming, but once you start talking to them they open up a little more.”

Among the other criteria, volunteers are also looking to identify people who qualify for government subsidies but may not know it. The problem is, in order to administer a subsidy, candidates must first be identified.

That’s where this campaign comes in, according to Jake Maguire, a representative from 100 Thousand Homes.

“We as a society have made a broad commitment to certain groups of people, like veterans, seniors, people with aids…that we don’t want those people to be experiencing homelessness. It’s important to us as a nation that those people be inside.”

So far, 100 Thousand Homes has housed just shy of eleven thousand people nationwide. Maguire says they are on track to reach 100 thousand by July of 2013. Watts is not alone. Over 100 communities have joined the movement and the number is expected to keep growing.

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