Housing for homeless in Kansas City pushes to end plight of life on the streets

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A national campaign Wednesday is celebrating reaching its goal of providing permanent places to live to 100,000 chronically homeless.

Kansas City contributed to the effort by providing housing for 434 homeless individuals in the last two years. Those who used to live on the streets say they're now happy to have homes.

Kansas City is one of 57 communities nationwide that are now on track to end chronic homelessness within three years. The 100,000 Homes campaign provided housing for 30,000 veterans and is estimated to have saved taxpayers $1.3 billion.

Victoria Briggs is one of the 100,000 chronically homeless who now has a home sweet home. She's says she's proud of her Midtown apartment. Things that many others take for granted -- like combing your hair or taking a shower -- she now cherishes. She blames drug abuse for forcing her to live on the streets for 13 years.

"I have come a long way," Briggs said. "My favorite pastime before 100,000 Homes was I slept in the bushes by Nesco Coffee right off the freeway. And now I shower regularly. I care about who I am and how I am represented now. I'm a lot happier."

In Kansas City, more than 80 percent who have been moved into permanent housing still have a roof over their heads.

Nationally, the retention rate in 100,000 Homes campaign is more than 90 percent.

"We are very proud to be one of their committed communities," said Evie Craig, president and CEO of ReStart. "In fact there have been months when we have led the country in the number of folks we've placed. We've done it by through a partnership with more than 18 agencies and with some very remarkable individuals. In fact, 434 folks have been placed here locally thru this campaign including 107 vets."

Nationally the number of chronically homeless has dropped since 2010. The agency says it eliminated barriers to helping the homeless by moving people with problems into housing first, and then working on other aspects of their lives that often are barriers to getting help. Things like employment, drug treatment and healthcare are part of the long term strategy to keep people from returning to the streets.

Taxpayer savings come from studies that suggest chronic homeless people make unnecessary use of emergency services, like the hospital ER, where one night's stay often costs a lot more than one month's rent.

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