The 180/180 campaign has an ambitious goal: to house 180 of the most medically vulnerable, long-term and chronically homeless men, women and families by 2014.
As part of a nationwide movement called 100,000 Homes, which includes some 155 participating communities, the 180/180 campaign has already successfully housed ten homeless individuals, and 20,000 have been housed nationally.
The campaign recognizes housing as a necessary ingredient to improving the human health and lives.
"It's very hard to recover from whatever situation or disability somebody might be dealing with in the absence of a safe, stable home... When we're sick or we don't feel well the first place we want is to go home and have some chicken soup and crawl under the covers but homeless people don't have that option," said Philip Kramer, Project Manager of 180/180.
In Santa Cruz County, homelessness is a serious problem. According to Kramer, around 2,700 people are homeless at any given time in Santa Cruz, and 900 of them are chronically homeless.
Last year, 24 people died on the streets, at an average age of 49—30 years less than the national average, says Kramer.
'It's not a crisis because they are kind of invisible," said Kramer.
The 180/180 campaign began in May, with 100 volunteers surveying 325 homeless people about their health and situation. It's an evidence-based survey created by health care practitioners in Boston years ago, and used to determine the life span of individuals on the street.
"We now have a rank-ordered list of people, based on their vulnerability score, or their risk of early death, and it's like triage. Now we know that whoever is at the top of the list, that's where we should focus our resources," said Kramer.
The 180/180 campaign is working with local organizations like Homeless Services, Homeless Persons Health Project, Santa Cruz County Community Counseling Center, the Housing Authority and others, and they're always in need of advocacy volunteers to help people with the process of applying for housing, health care, counseling and other social services.
Kramer points out the campaign for permanent supportive housing is not only the compassionate thing to do as a community, it's also the most cost effective.
"We as a community can either keep spending on expensive, temporary emergency services or we can spend the same or less money by moving into a stable housing environment," said Kramer.
The alternative is to keep paying astronomical costs for general relief emergency services, ambulance rides, and county jail, says Kramer.
Kramer hopes the campaign will change not only the lives of people that will be housed, but also a "180 degree turn in our community about how we address and think about this chronically homeless population," says Kramer.
To find out more about the 180/180 campaign, including how to get involved, visit the 180/180 Campaign website.