Homelessness in Roanoke down sharply, according to new report

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ROANOKE, Va (WDBJ7) A new report presented to the Roanoke City Council Monday says homelessness in the Roanoke Valley has dropped sharply since 2012.

The report was presented by the Roanoke Rescue Mission's Lee Clark, and outlined data from anti-homelessness organizations around the Valley.

Paula Prince is the spokesperson for Blue Ridge Continuum of Care, the organization coordinating many of the anti-homelessness efforts in the area. She says getting groups to work together more efficiently was a driving force in their recent success.

"Where we have been really able to maximize our resources by working together,' she said ",instead of being at cross purposes."

While overall homelessness has declined 44%, Veteran homelessness has been functionally eliminated, according to the report. But Prince says this may not be a change you notice.

"It appears when you just walk around downtown, or drive around the valley, that nothing's changed, here are these people that are homeless, why don't we do something for them? And it's not that we don't. We do. It's just that there are some folks that are very difficult to serve," she said.

And the services that are needed to tackle that population aren't cheap: "Expanding our housing stock, finding services for those people who need them. As I said, mental health and addiction services are very needed."

Some funding help may come from the Federal Government, as the city works towards becoming what the Department of Housing and Urban Development calls a "high performing community." That benchmark is based largely on the number of homeless people in a community and how long they remain homeless.

"We're working on that very hard and we're not that far away," Prince said.

Prince acknowledges that homelessness will never truly go away.
What's important, she says, it dealing with it, and dealing with it fast.

"So sure, people will become homeless, but we in the Roanoke Valley want to be sure we take care of it as quickly as possible," she said.

While homelessness is down overall, it has ticked up slightly over the past year.