Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Value of Relationships

According to Dr. Ruby Payne, noted author of "A Framework for Understanding Poverty," there are certain hidden rules among the classes. Where the middle class value things as possessions and the wealthy one-of-kind objects, legacies and pedigrees, the impoverished value people/relationships.

Recently, a current resident asked permission to bring a significant other into the program, explaining that he would be a tremendous support and that his inclusion would be beneficial for the success of the family. After very careful consideration, he was taken through the process and enrolled in the program. What has resulted is a family that was simply going through the motions has become a family focused on ending the cycle of poverty in their lives. To this end, the significant other is nearing completion of his aviation training--in which he is the top performer in his class--and the family is developing their plan to transition to permanent housing.

Though we may not readily see the value in the relationships that our families choose to maintain, we have to sometimes be willing to take the chance that they know best.

- Jeannine Short, Director of Programs

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tackling Homelessness in Kansas City

By the time this is published, the KCMO City Council hopefully will have passed a resolution to establish a Homelessness Task Force.

That’s a good thing.

The task force will be charged to identify the issues related to homelessness and develop a plan with both immediate and long term strategies. Hopefully, our City will be as successful in reducing homelessness as some of the cities that have already created 10-year plans to end homelessness.

A point in time census conducted on a single day in January of this year determined that there we about 1,400 homeless individuals and an additional 1,200 people in families. Unfortunately, that doesn't count people who are doubling up or couch surfing (staying with family or friends).

Based on our experience, I would guess the number is significantly higher now. The number of families calling us or dropping in to request services has climbed steeply this year. Thirty four families requested our services in January and 105 in June. Compared to the first six months of 2008, the cumulative total number of walk-ins and call-ins has increased by about 280% this year. Our waiting list is now up to 114 families.

Thank you, City Council. The City couldn’t have picked a better time to form the Homelessness Task Force.

- Laura Gray

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why Our Programs Are Successful

Yesterday at our staff meeting, we had a conversation about what makes both our Transitional Housing program and our outreach programs successful.

I’m very clear about what makes our Transitional Housing program uniquely successful (8 out of 10 families will not become homeless again). It’s the selection process that identifies the people ready to do the work to break old patterns, all of the services (family coaching, mental wellness counseling, budgeting & life skills training) working in concert, and the community of support that grows within residents, staff and volunteers.

So I asked the outreach staff to tell us why their outreach is successful. It made me realize just how much outreach the staff of Transitional Housing program are doing, much less those staff in purely outreach jobs.

Our Transitional Housing Family Coaches are case managing all of the walk-ins, including an estimated 35 families per month who will never become residents of Community LINC. They refer them to services, help them face the reality of their situation and understand their options. As one of the Transitional Housing Family Coaches said, understanding what caused our residents to become homeless helps the coaches quickly identify the key issues for the walk-in families. They also case managed the 113 families who are now on our waiting list.

The staff who are exclusively doing outreach under the Community Work Support contract believe they are successful getting better outcomes for their clients for a couple of reasons. One is their tenacity and another is because they go to where the clients are – their homes. All of our outreach clients have case managers for the Temporary Aid to Needy Families and many other government agencies. Our staff teach them how to work within the system that frustrated them to the point of giving up and becoming noncompliant.

- Laura Gray