Zweifel speaks at a press conference announcing his proposal

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel has asked the Missouri Housing Development Commission to commit to putting one third of its state and federal tax credits toward a package that would help assist those with mental illnesses who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness.

“The philosophy here is really straight forward. We build safe, stable housing, and then we provide critical supportive services that are so important. It’s a recognition that we have to invest in both of those if we’re gonna be successful in really addressing homelessness,” Zweifel said.

Zweifel estimates the percentage in his proposal would figure out to about $127 million dollars, but he points out it’s not any new spending; these are federal and state resources already allocated for fiscal year 2011. He estimates the money could build 400 specialized homes for those with mental illnesses.

“We purposely provide some flexibility in there so that it could be single family housing where a group of people might live in that home. It could be a multi-family unit apartment complex,” Zweifel said.

Zweifel says it’s hard to work in a “one size fits all” mindset when it comes to these types of issues.

“We could have projects come to us where the purpose is to get someone back on their feet and back to some sort of independent living. So I think it really varies on what professionals see is the opportunity to be solved and what the challenge is to be solved,” Zweifel said.

He says the state hasn’t been addressing the problem as it should.

“Very few states have really lived up to the responsibilities in taking care of the homeless population and dealing with the issue. This is a chance to take a couple different pieces of expertise in mental health but also expertise in bricks and mortar and kind of bring them together so we can begin to make a dent,” Zweifel said.

Zweifel says in the long run, this will help the state become more efficient. He says it would cut costs for shelters, hospitals, jails, prisons, and emergency rooms as the chronically homeless are placed in more stable environments. Zweifel sent a letter outlining his plan to the MHDC and the Governor in July.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]