Economy threatens cities' fights vs. homelessness


Beneath the glowing red Coca-Cola headquarters sign, case worker Hylda Jackson bargains with one of Atlanta's homeless.

Jackson wants to know if Harry Byrd would like his own apartment. If he says no, he'll remain among the 750,000 homeless sprinkled across the nation's streets and shelters each night.

In Atlanta and other cities, a sense of urgency has settled over the efforts of advocates such as Jackson.

The recession is catching many of the nation's largest cities in the middle of pioneering 10-year plans to drastically reduce the number of chronically homeless and channeling them into apartments with built-in case workers.

Protip Biswas, executive director of United Way Atlanta's Regional Commission on Homelessness, said "it's the start of tough times."

Biswas is asking his own case workers to nearly double their load.

Atlanta's 5-year-old program is considered one of the most successful -- it's created 1,600 units of supportive housing for the chronically homeless. Of 750 people recently tracked through the program, 90 percent remained housed after a year.

In turn, chronic homelessness is down 16 percent in the metro area.

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