New Campaign Shows Progress for Homeless
Arthur Sena spent years living in a hole that he had dug near the railroad tracks. He would probably still be there, defying offers of help from social workers and using cardboard to ward off the chill, if Denver had not adopted a radical strategy of putting homeless people into apartments of their own, no strings attached.
The "housing first" policy that this city adopted last year is part of an accelerating national movement that has reduced the numbers of the chronically homeless ? the single, troubled men and women who spend years in the streets and shelters ? in more than 20 cities.
In this campaign, promoted by a little-known office of the Bush administration, 219 cities, at last count, have started ambitious 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness.
The cities include New York, which is stepping up efforts to house the estimated nearly 4,000 people huddling on sidewalks or sleeping in parks, and Henderson, N.C., population 17,000, which recently counted 91 homeless people, 14 of them chronic cases.
Part of the credit, Mr. Hess and others said, goes to Philip F. Mangano, a Bush appointee who has spent five years visiting every mayor and governor he can, brandishing successful examples, cost-benefit studies and his own messianic fervor along with modest amounts of federal money.
"We're conspiring to undo what we'd been told for so many years, that this was an intractable issue," Mr. Mangano told 150 mayors, state and city officials and private leaders here in May. They were gathered for the first "national leadership summit," sponsored by the once-dormant office that Mr. Mangano leads, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Wherever he goes, Mr. Mangano, 58, who was director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, emphasizes that it is cheaper to put the chronically homeless right into apartments, and provide medical and addiction treatments there, than to watch them cycle endlessly through shelters, soup kitchens, emergency rooms, detoxification centers and jails.