$1 million initiative to help homeless; Health Foundation boosts Home Again.


Byline: Jay Whearley

WORCESTER - A local foundation yesterday pledged more than $1 million in immediate funding - and as much as $3 million over the next several years - toward the goal of not just stemming the tide of chronic adult homelessness, but eradicating it altogether in the city.

The ambitious initiative, announced by the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, is to begin immediately and will initially target 125 people, an estimated 20 percent of Worcester's chronic homeless population.

"Chronically homeless people often have mental and physical illnesses exacerbated because they are living on the streets," said Jan B. Yost, president of the Health Foundation. Her organization has delivered a $587,655 grant to a local project targeting homelessness called Home Again, and has committed to lending $500,000 to a housing loan fund to help get people who habitually live on the streets or in shelters into housing of their own.

Depending on the success of the first 12 to 18 months of Home Again, Ms. Yost said, the foundation anticipates providing another $3 million to keep the program operating for three to five years. Organizers hope that a good track record will prompt additional support from other sources.

The guidelines for Home Again were drawn from research and surveys undertaken last year through a $122,430 grant from the foundation. The agreed-upon approach draws heavily from successful programs for the homeless in other cities, which deliver mental health counseling, health care, substance abuse treatment, life skills training and other support services to the homeless, in addition to a roof over their heads.

The aim is for the formerly homeless participants in the project to become adept at managing their lives; find employment, if possible; improve their mental and physical health; and thus be able to support themselves. As they leave Home Again, new participants fill their slots in the program, the door revolving until all in need are served.

Home Again pulls together the resources of Community Healthlink, Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance, Dismas House, Henry Lee Willis Community Center, Jeremiah's Inn, and South Middlesex Opportunity Council's People in Peril Shelter in Worcester. Brook Doyle, vice president of homeless and detoxification services for Community Healthlink will serve as project director.

The Home Again project is well-suited to achieve the goals of the Massachusetts Commission to End Homelessness...

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