HOUSTON — The streets of Houston got a little bit brighter Thursday morning after Mayor Sylvester Turner received a $1 million donation from JP Morgan Chase to help Houston resolve its chronic homelessness problem.
"The homeless are more than just nameless faces on our streets; they're our mothers, our fathers and in some cases our children," Turner said. "Homelessness is a top priority for this administration because it is a top priority for Houstonians throughout the city of Houston. That being said, a transformative shift has a occurred in the way that we as a community respond to homelessness."
The city devised a plan last year to build 2,500 permanent housing units that are funding mostly through local and federal government support, Turner said. However, the city is still short $15 million for funding its project. The City of Houston has raised an estimated $7 million dollars, and with JP Morgan Chase's $1 million donation, the city is half way toward its financial goal.
"We believe we have a responsibility to help the communities where we work address their social and economic challenges," JP Morgan vice-President of Philanthropy Carolyn Watson said. "Every year, the JP Morgan Chase Foundation awards over $200 million to non-profits around the globe. These non-profits are vitalizing neighborhoods, equipping people to secure better jobs and helping them build financial assets for the future."
The city has shifted from managing homelessness to solving it by focusing on providing a permanent housing solution for these individuals, the mayor said.
"It is pretty simple. If you are homeless, you are literally, literally without a home. That should be no surprise that housing is the solution to homeless," Turner said.
He said the organizations and agencies responsible for working with Houston's homeless have also switched from working in independently to collaborating consistently and embracing shared goals while combining their resources to maximize their impact. The mayor said more than 100 local are organization are working together through The Way Home program, which is Houston's regional and collaborative homeless responsive system.
"Everything The Way Home does is geared toward one purpose: transiting the homeless off of our streets and into supportive housing," the mayor said. "Besides housing disabled veterans and those with children, we are strategically focused on housing our most vulnerable homeless individuals."
Turner said this includes those with disabilities who have been living on the streets for at least a year. Over the years, the chronically homeless have accounted for 30 percent of Houston's homeless population while utilizing nearly 70 percent of the city's resources for the demographic. The city estimates over nearly $103 million of taxpayers' dollars are spent providing the chronically homeless with temporary shelter, police response, emergency services, and covering jail and emergency room costs.
"It is actually less expensive to house the chronically homeless with supportive services than it is merely to walk by them on the streets of the city of Houston," Turner said. "Housing our homeless is more than a plan or an admiration, it is already being done on a daily basis."
Turner said a permanent housing solution will save the taxpayers an average of $28,000 per person which adds up to an estimated $70.6 million each year. Through its current initiative, the city has rescued nearly 7,500 individuals from the street — more than 3,000 of whom were constituted as chronically homeless.
"Our goal is to virtually end chronic homeless in the city of Houston," Turner said.