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New National Approach Focuses on Chronically Homeless

People who have been homeless for at least a year or have been homeless multiple times within a few years present a unique challenge. The NewsHour reports on a new national approach to homelessness that seeks to address this group.

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    What do you think?

  • MARY FREEMAN, Subsidized Housing Recipient:

    Oh, my gosh. It looks good, though.

  • LEE HOCHBERG, NewsHour Correspondent:

    She was happy about her free haircut, but Mary Freeman was elated about the new housing she won that day. At an outreach event to the homeless at the Portland Coliseum, she was one of 50 who drew lucky bracelets that put them at the head of the line for government-subsidized housing.

    Freeman had roamed Portland's streets for six months, high on methamphetamine, and had her daughter declared a ward of the state.


    I can't believe it. I mean, I just — I can't even express my joy. I have no words for it. I'm so thankful to God. I'll never, ever lose this bracelet.


    When was the last time that you had your own home of your own, like your own single home?


    It was about two years ago.


    Portland and several other cities launched an experimental strategy three years ago to put the most troubled of the nation's 750,000 homeless into permanent housing, rather than a shelter, to see if that makes it easier for them to stabilize their lives. Early data suggests it does.

    Portland Housing Commissioner Erik Sten.

  • ERIK STEN, Portland Housing Commissioner:

    What we found is that you really can't solve your problems very easily until you have permanent housing. The key thing we're finding is it makes them more functional.


    The number of homeless in Miami dropped 30 percent last year with the new approach. In Dallas and San Francisco, 28 percent. Nine hundred of Portland's homeless are off the street.


    They are safer. The city is safer. There's a perception that the city is more hospitable, because you don't have people you're stepping over sleeping on the streets to nearly the same degree.


    The program eliminates the longtime requirement that the homeless be clean and sober to qualify for housing. Its main target is the nation's 75,000 chronic homeless, who have so many daunting issues.

  • CINDI GRIES, Subsidized Housing Seeker:

    I'm manic-depressive and schizoaffective. I have heart problems. I have COPD. I have to have breathing treatment every four hours because I can't breathe.


    Cindi Gries showed up at the coliseum, also suffering from HIV and substance abuse. She'd lost her housing in South Dakota and was now in Portland with partner Parthina Kincaid, their 4-year-old son, and two dogs, all living in her car.


    When you're on HIV meds, you have to take them at the same time every day. And if you even go an hour behind…


    You're messed up.


    … you're messed up. So I have to have them, and they have to be refrigerated. Otherwise they melt. We really have to be in housing. I can't be outside. I have to take a breathing treatment every four hours.