Mayor Greg Stanton has announced a new city strategy to end homelessness in Phoenix by prioritizing housing for the chronically homeless.

The comprehensive Phoenix Homeless Initiative, approved last week by the City Council, efficiently redeploys existing homeless services and grants funding at no new cost. Through a “housing first” strategy, 200 additional chronically homeless families and individuals will have access to permanent assisted housing over the next three years, starting in July 2013.

The Morrison Institute for Public Policy reports there may be 20,000 to 30,000 people who are homeless on any day in Arizona. In Phoenix, a resident who is chronically homeless is defined as experiencing homelessness for a year or longer or more than four times in the last three years, and has a disabling medical, mental or addictive condition.

These are the most visible and most difficult to serve. They are more likely to need medial care, and could easily create $40,500 in hospital costs per year — costs that are shared by the public, according to the Morrison Institute.

No additional funding is needed for the new initiative, because it realigns city services and existing funding and combines services from the Housing and Human Services Department.

The innovative “housing first” strategy allows homeless families, veterans, the chronically homeless and unaccompanied youth to move into permanent housing with supportive services and individualized case management.

Before, the city of Phoenix was operating on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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