State works on plan to end homelessness

Dave and Mary's problem is common in Nevada, where half the homeless are families with children, said housing advocate Anne Cory.

The state's Policy Academy Team on Homelessness met last week to discuss a 10-year plan to rectify the situation.

"Having a 10-year plan in place will solidify the commitment of elected officials and policy makers and citizens and help to clarify what steps we need to take to address this problem," Cory said.

She is team president and chief of the United Way of Northern Nevada.

"People who have either lost their jobs because of physical illness or disability, or are still working and just can't make the rent with medical bills to pay," Cory said. "It's really tragic. One way to help this issue is to prevent people from becoming homeless."

The plan will concentrate on providing stable housing, assemble agency and elected officials to address the problem, and create a housing model in Las Vegas.

Gov. Kenny Guinn's office has a draft of the plan, but hasn't commented on it.

Federal income formulas set fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Carson City at $696. The income needed to afford that is $27,840, estimates Jonnie Pullman, executive director for the Nevada Affordable Housing Resource Council.

Forty-one percent of Carson City renters are unable to afford a two-bedroom rental.

"Almost half the renters don't have affordable housing," Pullman said. "They spend more on housing than they should. That means, they spend less money on other things than they should."

A worker making minimum wage would need to work 104 hours a week to afford market rent, Pullman said. For a person to earn enough to pay rent and buy a sufficient amount of food, clothing and necessities, he would need to make $13.38 an hour.

"That doesn't include people who have a house and have lost a job and are really struggling," Pullman said.

The Nevada Rural Housing Authority, a group that distributes federal housing dollars and vouchers, is working on a program to provide deposit assistance. The authority serves 15 rural Nevada counties and has 2,000 people waiting up to two years for housing vouchers.

"We have no emergency help here at this program," said executive director Gary Longaker. "We don't have enough affordable houses. We would love to see more."

City economic development officials plan to expand emergency shelter capacity for homeless and domestic violence victims in the next five years, using federal Housing and Urban Development funds. In 2005, the city proposes to spend $10,000 on the homeless.

Homeless assistance will be limited to one project over the next five years. Housing is not a priority because money is available from other sources for housing, said economic development manager Joe McCarthy. The city does plan to increase transitional housing with support services.

The homeless population lost a valuable resource this year when the Jubilee Center closed from lack of funding. The center provided a safe place with meals, clothes and an address.

Contact Jill Lufrano at or 881-1217.


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