One word: Coordination. Since 2011, Houston’s homeless population has decreased a whopping 53 percent while in Dallas the homeless population increased 9 percent in just the last year. According to a story in the Texas Tribune, the primary difference is Houston’s coordination between various organizations providing housing and services to assist people living on the streets get the help they need to be successful.
“If you have a homeless person and you put them in houses, and simultaneously give them social, behavioral and health support services, 92% of them will be stable in that facility,” said Mike Nichols, interim CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless in Houston, the local continuum of care, which is the regional planning body that coordinates housing and services funding for homeless people.
The scenario from 20 years ago when different organizations would serve food, give clothes or offer shelter — all done separately — has changed. There’s now constant communication between these institutions and a digital database called the Homeless Management Information System (or HMIS) that allows people at several organizations to understand each case. Most cities today have HMIS in place, but Houston was quick to adopt it, and that helped organizations strategize, analyze, share information and find personalized solutions.