Boone County chosen in national program to combat homelessness

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COLUMBIA - Boone County is now one of four counties in the country to work on a special project aimed at reducing homelessness among those recently released from prison.

The national nonprofit Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) chose Boone County to participate in an integrated data study, using criminal justice and homelessness data in the the county to cut down on repeat offenders and improve public safety. 

Director of Boone County Community Services, Kelly Wallis is the leader of the project. 

"It’s really a team who received this grant so it really represents behavioral health, supportive housing efforts, primary health care efforts, criminal justice efforts, and homelessness efforts," Jacobs said.

The Columbia Housing Authority, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital in Columbia are partners for the project.

An employee of St. Francis House, Steven Jacobs questions whether collecting data will bring about change for those incarcerated.

"We have a problem in the United States that we want to see criminals punished but there’s no rehabilitation," Jacobs said.

However, Wallis said the 12 to 18 month initiative will include implementation such as providing affordable housing and access to services for those leaving incarceration. 

St. Francis House has provided meals and a place to stay for the homeless population for more than 25 years, and Jacobs hopes this program will continue the good work done by the shelter.

"There is an intense dislike for people who’ve been incarcerated and that carries over into their ability for them to find somewhere to stay, get a job and support themselves so a lot of people end up being homeless," Jacobs said. 

He said the community can do more to rehabilitate those who have been in prison.

Jacobs said, "If you keep putting people in cages, locked up amongst themselves and you don’t provide any sort of hope, then when they get out, what’s going to happen? It’s not going to solve crime."

Wallis said the grant is an extension of initiatives the county has already started. 

"The efforts that we’ve started are meaningful and we’re working in the right direction to address homelessness and recidivism," Wallis said.

 

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