Chronic homelessness in Lubbock decreases

KAMC News

For anyone living on Lubbock streets for a year or more, Open Door, provides permanent supportive housing. KAMC News took a closer look at chronic homelessness in Lubbock.

According to Open Door, more than 40 adults that have been served by the organization have
made it out of chronic homelessness.

Ellarissa Happy, one of their residents, said she spent 20 years without a home.

“It is very, very hard,” Happy said. “I went into the cold and the snow.”

For years, she said she didn’t have a bed or a shower, or any basic necessities.

“Now that I have a home to stay in [and] a roof over my head, I don’t have to go through that,” Happy said.

Happy says some of the things she enjoys the most are clean clothes, being able to take a shower and having her own bed to sleep in. As she looks back at her life, she says there are some things she wishes she could change. However, she says she is moving forward.

“What’s really depressing is that I left my kids, I left my kids in Colorado in 2000,” Happy said. “I wish in time I could go back and do that.”

Happy is just one of dozens in Lubbock who spent time chronically homeless, living on the street for more than a year.

Ricardo Cortez, who has been in the housing program for three years, says the worst part was the uncertainty of living a life without a home.

“Where [am I] going to sleep, how [am I] going to eat,” Cortez said. “When it’s raining, when it’s cold, when it’s windy, where am I going to be.”

Another, Adolfo Caudillo, said he was homeless for six years. Caudillo says he suffered from substance abuse problems for years before he entered the housing program.

“Drugs and drugs, you get tired with it,” Caudillo said. “When I got my own place you change, you change a whole bunch.”

Open Door provides permanent supportive housing for more than 40 adults who have exited chronic homelessness.

According to Open Door, chronic homelessness in Lubbock accounts for roughly 10% to 15% of the total homeless population.

Katherine Hennecke, director of supportive services with Open Door, said it’s unlike situational homelessness. She says situational homelessness is very transitional, fluctuating all the time with an average person experiencing situational homelessness being 30 days or less.

“These are people who are experiencing not only homelessness, but have medical needs, mental health issues, they’re also struggling with substance abuse addictions,” Hennecke said.

One chronically homeless person can cost a city about $40,000 dollars per year, with emergency room visits, shelters and other expenses.

To fix that, Open Door started handing out keys to house people on the streets.

“When you get to see that moment when they open the door and use that key for the first time, it’s a very powerful moment,” Hennecke said.

KAMC News looked at the numbers to see if it’s working.

“Big impact, I think if you look at the past three years our point in time count, which is where at one point in the year we count our homeless population, that numbers been dropping,” said Sgt. Steven Bergen with the Lubbock Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team.

With the help of open door and the homeless outreach team, numbers are dwindling.

According to the Texas homeless network, 85 people were chronically homeless in 2017, 44 people in 2018 and this year only 37 are living on the streets.  

“We see that it is declining with those kinds of calls, criminal trespass, mental health calls,” Sgt. Bergen said.

KAMC News rode along with the H.O.T. team to get a closer look at what it’s like for people living on the streets.  

“There used to be a lot of homeless subjects living in this area because obviously it’s really wooded, easy to hide,” said Clay Trotter, with the HOT team.

Happy said the pieces are coming together, she’s thankful to open door and loves her new home.

“I’m just proud every time I sit on the couch, I look around and I just say thank god,” Happy said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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