State Treasurer Clint Zweifel (ZWY-ful) today renewed his call for the state’s housing commission to approve using 33 percent of its housing tax credits resources, or about $122 million in state and federal funding to fight homelessness throughout Missouri. The proposal is currently recommended by commission staff for approval as part of the 2012 Qualified Application Plan that is scheduled for a vote on Thursday, Aug. 25.
 
Treasurer Zweifel originally called for the funding in 2010 – a version providing funding for the creation of two housing developments did pass at the time. This plan, as presented in 2010 and now, requires no new spending, and instead efficiently utilizes existing federal and state resources by allocating 33 percent of affordable housing tax credits for fiscal year 2012 to create long-term stable housing needed to tackle homelessness.
 
“Today I am calling on the state’s housing commission to make the single largest commitment it has ever made toward ending the cruel cycle of homelessness that exists throughout Missouri,” Treasurer Zweifel said. “There are 24,000 homeless people in Missouri, and for many it is not as simple as finding a place to live. They need supportive services that are consistent, reliable and flexible; when these services are provided they are capable of living independently. This investment will create an estimated 400 units of specialized housing – housing that will efficiently reduce costs to communities throughout Missouri by taking pressure off hospitals, jails, prisons and emergency rooms. The ratification of this plan will begin to put to end the unconscionable reality that there are 5,000 homeless veterans and 16,000 homeless children under the age of eight in our state. The time to act is now.”
 
In 2010 and 2011, the housing commission funded the creation of six special needs housing developments in Missouri with 191 specialized units in Arnold, Kansas City, St. Louis and Warrenton. These units and future specialized housing units target homelessness by focusing on individuals suffering from a mental illness, persons dealing with physical, mental or emotional impairment, people with a developmental disability, persons currently homeless and youth aging out of foster care. The average cost per unit is estimated at $166,000 based on previous production costs.
 
Homeless persons can typically live independently if supportive services are provided in a consistent, reliable and flexible fashion. These services can include case management, coordination of medical and psychiatric care, on-call crisis help, money management, social skills and daily living training and support groups. Costs to communities can be cut dramatically by providing housing options that offer a long-term living situation and medical assistance. Several governments have enacted similar proposals and have reduced cost of services by around $16,000 per year per person, saving millions of tax dollars.
 
“We are not going to solve Missouri’s significant and serious homelessness problem in one year, but I know with a sustained commitment to build critical supportive housing we can eradicate homelessness,” Treasurer Zweifel said. “We can connect the dots between housing experts, health experts, businesses, governments and faith-based providers to ensure someone’s mother, father, son or daughter does not have to suffer the indignity of sleeping on a park bench. And, we can do this while saving massive amounts of tax dollars.”
 
The National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri have endorsed the plan.