Camden readies new approach for helping the chronically homeless

Right now in Camden, if you’re homeless, you might go to a shelter, live there for a while, seek help if you have drug problems or mental illness, and then maybe you’ll be approved for temporary housing.

It’s a system that works about 20 percent of the time, and Dr. Jeffrey Brenner – founder of the nonprofit Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers – calls it an absolute failure.

Brenner joined several officials in Camden Monday to announce plans for a new approach to dealing with the city’s 650 homeless individuals, 90 of whom are chronically so.

The program follows the Housing First model, which starts by placing the homeless into vacant apartments throughout the city and then follows up with treatment.

“Housing First wraps lots of supportive services around them,” said Brenner. “How to shop for groceries, how to keep their house up and take care of themselves. And within about six months, you can pull those services back. And they have a much higher rate of sobriety, and their mental health begins to improve as well.”

Philadelphia’s own Housing First program boasts a success rate of 89 percent.

Brenner estimates it will could save Camden many thousands per year in hospital and incarceration fees.

Camden including Mayor Dana Redd are on board.

Funds from Camden’s Homeless Trust Fund, Cooper Hospital and other donors so far total enough to support rent for 50 individuals.

The program, which is a number of months away from launching, will begin by targeting those homeless individuals who are most vulnerable combined with those who use the health care system the most.

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