As I’ve met and talked with donors and volunteers at all levels, I’ve noticed that they often don’t have a complete understanding of all the services that Connections provides. Before I share our long-term vision for Connections, I think it is important to clearly explain how we are currently serving individuals and families facing homelessness. In a nutshell, we do the following:
- We help people to stay in the housing they have.
- We help people who have lost their home to find housing.
- We run our own housing programs.
- We provide the support necessary to achieve self-sufficiency.
Our programs help many people. We employ evidence-based practices in our work and staff our programs with skilled and compassionate professionals. However, as they are, our programs do not – they cannot (with current funding levels) – go far enough for enough people. People in our community are still suffering and we need to do more.
Next week, I will tell you about where evidence-based best practices are serving Connections and the community well and about where and how we will continue to use them. The following week, we will delve into the gaps in our homeless systems and how our practices are an ideal, but not always practical in the real world.
Homelessness Prevention: Preventing homelessness in the first place is ideal.
- When funding is available, we help people in imminent danger of being evicted with financial assistance to pay off debt or catch up on rent or mortgage payments.
- We help people create budgets, provide other financial literacy training, and help them to create plans to maintain their housing permanently.
2. WE HELP PEOPLE WHO HAVE LOST THEIR HOME TO FIND HOUSING.
EntryPoint: Homeless people can be isolated, ashamed, and scared to ask for help.
- Through our Outreach programs, we find homeless people wherever they are, we listen to their stories, and we strategize with them on solutions to their homelessness.
- At our Drop-In Center, we welcome people off the streets and provide basic necessities like food, clothing, showers, and access to computers and telephones. As we get to know them, we learn what else they may need.
- When necessary, we refer people to our community partners for specialized services.
- We assess people’s needs and coordinate all their care – assisting them in obtaining missing identification documents, applying for benefits, and navigating the systems and bureaucracies that lie between them and getting housed.
- We measure progress and provide encouragement during our regular, ongoing meetings with participants.
- We search for affordable housing and develop relationships with landlords.
- We partner with participants through the sometimes daunting application processes for apartments or rental vouchers.
- We advocate for people in need with landlords and educate them about their rights and responsibilities as tenants.
- We provide security deposits, first-month’s rent, and subsequent rent payments if needed (and when funding is available).
- Housing on the North Shore is in short supply and what is available is often unaffordable for many.
- Through Hilda’s Place, our overnight shelter, we provide beds for up to 20 people at a time who are working to find housing they can afford.
Supportive Housing: Long-term support is critical to housing retention for many people.
- We provide long-term rent subsidies and day-to-day case management (help with managing finances, life skills, and health issues) for 22 homeless adults with physical, mental or emotional disabilities.
- We provide long-term rent subsidies and day-to-day case management for 22 families with children, where one of the family members has a physical, mental, or emotional disability.
- In partnership with the City of Evanston, we provide temporary (up to two years) rent subsidies for approximately 20 working families with children in School Districts 65 and 202.
- By coordinating childcare, training, educational, and career counseling services, we help each family to increase their household income so that they can be self-sufficient when their subsidy ends.
- Our House is an around-the-clock home operated by Connections for up to five young men between the ages of 18 and 24.
- We prepare each resident to live up to their potential by helping them create a plan that includes goals related to social-emotional well-being, engagement in the community, education and employment, housing, life skills, and financial literacy.
Health Services: Poor health is both a cause of and a result of homelessness.
- We triage physical and mental health needs and provide immediate assistance and referrals.
- We enroll people in healthcare benefits.
- We connect people to primary physical and mental health care providers.
- We have an R.N. on-site half-time and a psychiatrist on-site by appointment.
- We facilitate job searches through application assistance, employment counseling, and advocacy with potential employers.
- We help people to increase their work skills through personalized remedial and basic education.
- We help people to increase their income through connection to and help in paying for vocational training, certification programs, and degree programs.