At this Incubator Meeting, we learned more about ACC’s new Housing First Program from our very own Hwei-Ling Greeney! She explained that when homeless individuals are struggling with drugs, disabilities, and/or mental health issues, providing stable housing is the first thing necessary to rehabilitate them before one can begin trying to find them employment and to stabilize their life. It is very difficult to get a job or to stay sober while homeless. In a 2009 study, Amherst had 19 residents who were classified as chronically homeless—having been homeless for a year or more, with a disabling condition—and by now, that number may have nearly doubled.
From 2012 to 2014, ACC ran a transitional housing program with 35 residents, and 95% of the participants that graduated from the program found housing and employment on their own afterwards. So, in 2015, ACC applied for a grant, and we are now able to give three people Section 8 housing vouchers each year for the next three years. With these vouchers, a person can live in an apartment that costs up to $900 a month, and will only have to pay 33% of their income in rent each month. If the person has no income, they do not have to pay any rent that month. ACC will provide wraparound support to the three people we help provide housing for, including one-on-one case management three times a week, help managing money to build a good credit history, and help finding employment. A lottery drawing to determine who of the eligible candidates will receive housing will be held on Monday, October 31st.
At this meeting, we also had the pleasure of hearing from Jason Allen, a veteran who now works as a social worked for the VA, who himself went through a housing first program that helped him get on his feet. He explained that after he came back from Iraq, he was dealing with a lot of personal issues, and that he was homeless. Through the VA, he got a Section 8 housing voucher and was placed in a supportive housing first program. The program helped him get sober, and helped him reunite with his children. He now works at the VA, helping others through the housing process that he went through. He emphasized that the program that he went through saved his life, and that he would not be where he was today without it. We hope that ACC's housing first program is equally as successful!