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New move on homelessness

2mayors-200Four years from now, 800 homeless families would have received short-term financial assistance and home-based support, and 100 "highly vulnerable" homeless families would have received long-term housing and intensive aid, if two major efforts unfold as envisioned by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr.

Wharton and Luttrell announced Thursday (July 11) what was labeled as "significant progress." The announcement came on the second anniversary of the Memphis and Shelby County Action Plan to End Homelessness.

The two initiatives are:

• An expanded Memphis Homeless Prevention Rapid Rehousing program.

• The launch of Memphis Strong Families Initiative, an $8.1million collaboration that links the city, county and federal governments, the Community Alliance for the Homeless, MIFA, North Memphis Community Development Corporation, Tennessee Community Services Agency, the Plough Foundation and six other local nonprofits.

In the mix is MIFA's "repurposing" of its 73 apartments in the Midtown area to Rapid Rehousing and permanent residency. The apartments, which had been used for transitional housing, will house families served by the Memphis Strong Families Initiative.

"We are all grateful to MIFA for its willingness to donate its apartments to this important initiative and re-structure its homeless program to increase services through Rapid Rehousing," said Wharton. "MIFA's vision for improving the community continues its legacy of helping our neighbors in need."

Wharton touted the collaboration between public and private entities that he credited with "making it possible for us to more rapidly move forward with our plans to end homelessness in this community in the next 5 years."

"The synergy of these efforts marks monumental progress in our work," said Luttrell. "We are proud to lend support to these important efforts to end homelessness in our community."

MIFA and a community partnership operate Memphis's Rapid Rehousing program.

Sally Jones Heinz, MIFA executive director, said 90 percent of the families already assisted by Rapid ReHousing are "still in stable housing."

"Homeless prevention has been part of MIFA's focus for 30 years, and we are pleased to expand our contribution to meet the greatest needs in our community," Heinz said.

The Memphis Strong Families Initiative is among five nationwide. Each is part of a mission to determine if "permanent supportive housing can save families from dissolution and foster care." The goal of the local initiative is to "improve the safety, permanency and wellbeing of Memphis' most vulnerable children and families through inter-agency communication, collaboration and coordinated service delivery."

The North Memphis Community Development Corporation (NMCD) will manage the MIFA-donated apartments. NMCD is a 13-year-old nonprofit committed to quality of life enhancement via affordable housing.

The Memphis and Shelby County Community Alliance for the Homeless will coordinate services provided by the Memphis Strong Families Initiative. The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded a $5 million grant (over five years) for that purpose.

Other funding for the Memphis Strong Families Initiative includes:

• City of Memphis – $392,000; $100,000 for operating support and $292,000 for capital improvements;

• Shelby County – $200,000 for capital renovations;

• The Plough Foundation – $110,000 for start-up expenses.

"Ending homelessness can only happen when federal, state and local government align with nonprofits, philanthropies under the umbrella of a comprehensive strategic plan such as this," said Katie Kitchin, executive director of the Community Alliance to End Homelessness.

"Homelessness is already down 13 percent in our community and with these two projects, we can expect even further reductions to come."

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