Cobb County pledge to end homelessness is everyone’s business
[Cobb County attendees at the Housing Forum for the Homeless intently listen to presentation on homelessness in the county.]
Cobb County attendees at the Housing Forum for the Homeless intently listen to presentation on homelessness in the county.

Few if anyone attending the recent Cobb County Forum on Ending Homelessness came away confused by Cobb County Board of Commissioner Mike Boyce’s impassioned pledge to all in attendance of the county’s goal and commitment to end homelessness. HUD Southeast Regional Administrator Denise Cleveland-Leggett participated in the forum as a panel member emphasizing that through strong leadership to include innovative solutions leveraging public-private partnerships that ending homelessness to include Veteran homelessness is achievable. Over one hundred local leaders and non-profits to include the Marietta/Cobb County Continuum of Care, as well as the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness contributed to the program.

“I’m really proud of all that we have done here but we’re in silos,” Boyce said. “And we need to find a way to connect the silos.” Boyce pledged to end homelessness and invited attendees to join a working group that would devise actionable solutions to the issue.

A major point brought home during the forum to attendees was that while many may believe that homelessness is an urban issue it has spread to the suburbs.

Michael Murphy, special assistant to the commissioner for special projects, presented some suggestions during the forum which included discussing changing the county’s zoning laws, building so-called tiny houses and expanding a county initiative to increase homeownership rates among its employees.

“Cobb County should be commended for their commitment to end homelessness and bringing their partners here today to discuss how best to get that done,” said Cleveland-Leggett. “We look forward to continuing to partner with them on this issue.”

Irene Barton, Chairwoman of Marietta/Cobb County Continuum of Care Chairwoman, provided an overview of homelessness in the county and indicated that the scope of homelessness based on the Jan. 30, 2019 Point in Time (PIT) count that 324 people were in transitional or emergency housing, 81 of whom were children and 16 were veterans. That is an overall increase she related to the 2018 PIT results.

“HUD awarded over $2 billion earlier this year to renew grants and for new grants to support ending homlessness nationwide, while Georgia received $43 million and Cobb County/Marietta CoC received $2.3 million,” said Cleveland-Leggett.

HUD supports a broad array of interventions designed to assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness, particularly those living in places not meant for habitation, located in sheltering programs, or at imminent risk of becoming homeless. Each year, HUD serves more than a million people through emergency shelter, transitional, and permanent housing programs.

HUD continues to challenge state and local planning organizations called “Continuums of Care” to support their highest performing local programs that have proven most effective in meeting the needs of persons experiencing homelessness in their communities. Many of these state and local planners also embraced HUD’s call to shift funds from existing underperforming projects to create new ones that are based on best practices that will further their efforts to prevent and end homelessness.