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Following the lead of cities including Salt Lake City and Seattle, Milwaukee County is tackling chronic homelessness by providing permanent housing through a program called Housing First. Casey Tolin of Fusion reports that the program has already found permanent housing for 64 of an estimated 300 chronically homeless individuals.
Since September, officials have been giving permanent housing vouchers to anyone who’s been homeless for more than a year or on multiple occasions in the past couple years.
“The biggest need for a homeless person is housing,” said James Mathy, the county’s housing administrator. “We just offer them housing right off the street. It sounds simple, but a lot of communities don’t do it.”
Participants in the program are expected to contribute 30 percent of their income toward the cost of housing, with the remainder covered by the vouchers. In addition to providing housing, the program sets up homeless individuals with case workers who help to ease the transition between the streets and into the problems often associated with apartment living. The case workers also assist in signing up for benefits and finding treatment programs. Milwaukee's Housing First program is funded through a combination of state and federal dollars, as well as private donations, that will keep it operating for the next three years.