The 13th Community Summit on Homelessness focuses on direct services given to homeless person such as shelter, nursery, youth facilities and drug rehabilitation support, among others. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, a homeless person is an individual without permanent housing living either on the streets, public or private shelter, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle or even those who are forced to stay with friends and/or extended family members. On the other hand, US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shared the similar definitions except that it includes an individual who will imminently lose housing or unaccompanied youth and homeless families who have experienced instability as demonstrated by frequent moves.
It was a heartfelt experience to listen to the inspiring stories of individuals who found hope, love and the will to live decently through the coordinated programs of the Homeless Enrichment and Rehabilitation Team (HEART). HEART is an umbrella organization that gathers all the roles of social services agencies, shelter providers, healthcare providers, government agencies and the faith community in combating homelessness. One of the responsibilities of HEART is to hold summit with the community in order to develop innovative solutions and assess the current conditions of the homeless communities.
Hearing the story of individuals who found life after 17 years in jail and a lifetime partner in the shelter is an inspiring accomplishment that continue to motivate HEART in making positive changes. Knowing a homeless youth who found the will to dream again and to give back to the community is powerful force that leads into the right direction. Understanding the rehabilitation support and services for individuals suffering in drug addiction and their children being affected by the situation reiterates the right of every individual to recover and renew their life. These initiatives of the City of Albany, in partnership with accredited organizations, in providing community support to its homeless people started way back in 2006. It was prompted by the alarming number of homeless individuals who put up improvised shelter in the remote part of Simpson Park. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is one of the important budget resources from HUD. CDBG is regarded as a bottom up approach to finance projects on decent housing and suitable living. CDBG continues to fund the delivery of services of some HEART’s member-organization.
As nations worldwide continuously craft and implement policies to address the problem of homelessness resulting from varied activities such as urban migration, economic depression, natural and man-made disasters etc., community-based approach is considered to be one of the most viable ways to address the problems on homelessness. This is a case in point for the City of Albany and it is with the highest hope that collaborations will be more intensive, responsive and and sustainable.