Decade to Doorways, Chester County’s plan to end chronic homelessness, steps up efforts for community support
Following news of the recent report of a four-year decline of homelessness in Chester County, Commissioners Michelle Kichline, Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell gathered recently with representatives from regional organizations that support the efforts to end homelessness, to recognize the great work of the local service partners who participate in Chester County’s Decade to Doorways initiative.
At the Decade to Doorways event, held at the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center in West Chester, County Department of Community Development staff and the Commissioners highlighted the power of the Decade to Doorways partnerships, which are contributing to the decline in chronic homelessness. In addition, plans for the next actions in the Decade to Doorways program were introduced, focusing on breaking the stigma of the homeless experience and developing unwavering compassion and support for men, women and children experiencing homelessness.
In her remarks, and in noting the County’s rapid rate of growth, Commissioner Michelle Kichline said, “Chester County is deeply committed to a ‘housing first’ approach, with a priority to provide more affordably-priced housing.
“Research proves that in order to help individuals achieve long-term success we have to identify the best resources for housing first. A permanent roof over your head sets the foundation for overcoming many obstacles, be they mental or physical challenges, job and career placement challenges, social development or substance-abuse challenges or domestic violence challenges.”
Commissioner Kathi Cozzone shared her passion for creating dynamic support systems that ensure those in need are being advocated appropriately, especially children and youth. “This year’s Point-in-Time count revealed that Chester County had at least 35 children from infancy to age 12 who are without a home.
“Compared to the national average this number may seem small, but one child without a home is one too many. In providing unwavering community support through workforce and workplace initiatives, mental health awareness and training and other efforts, we can go beyond just providing a home, to helping individuals and families sustain and maintain their homes.”
Commenting on the next steps in the Decade to Doorways campaign to break the stigma of homelessness, Commissioner Terence Farrell noted, “Chester County is well known for its innovative approach to many issues, and we have organizations and individuals with a sincere passion to challenge thinking when it comes to perceived stigmas.
“One of the best ways to change the public perception of those experiencing homelessness is to engage in ‘transformative education’ with our young people; the next generation that has the power of a more ‘open’ mind.”
Within the coming months, Chester County Community Development staff and proponents of Decade to Doorways will begin engaging the community to take part in the mission to break the stigma of homelessness.
“This action, along with all of our efforts to-date, will bring us to a point where Chester County effectively ends chronic homelessness – the overriding goal of Decade to Doorways,” added Commissioner Farrell.