August 26, 2021
A 2040 Future Includes Solutions for Homelessness
DEFINITION: The action of devoting one’s time and effort to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.
No community is separated from homelessness and poverty, regardless of location or size. It’s a complex and universal challenge involving poverty, mental health and numerous community partners. In St. Joseph, residents and leaders are taking a very focused approach to real solutions toward homelessness, with most of these efforts geared toward the Imagine 2040 “invest in people” goal.
Working toward solutions for homelessness is centered around a high level of coordination and overlapping resources. It’s also centered around a high level of concern, interest and awareness by community members. Recent survey work reveals that St. Joseph residents definitely want to see big changes, with 84 percent agreeing there is a problem with homelessness and 74 percent supporting a comprehensive strategy to help the homeless population.
With the community interest alive and growing, combining this interest and the resources together in an organized way is another part of the process. St. Joseph is a participating community in the Continuum of Care, a federal homelessness assistance program available in all 50 states. Managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Continuum of Care helps streamline funding for homelessness resources and coordinates elements like mental health, criminal justice, emergency shelter needs and addiction related illness.
Basically, the Continuum of Care is a community plan that each participating city can set into motion with their own unique resources. The four main elements – outreach and intake; emergency shelter instead of sleeping on streets; transitional housing; and permanent or supported housing – allow a community to move forward in a systematic way.
The Continuum of Care members in St. Joseph are guiding and leading the process along five specific goal areas. The first is to offer a dedicated mental health resource. The Center is providing those services, with professional counseling, medication management, and diagnosis and treatment across more than 8,000 visits per year. Funding is collaborative, including grants through the United Way of Greater St. Joseph and other sources, as well as individual donors and partners.
The second goal area of the Continuum of Care is to provide more housing options to homeless individuals or those transitioning to more permanent and stable housing. A landlord mitigation fund allows the Continuum of Care to help encourage positive and sustainable landlord/tenant partnerships, which can lead to more stable housing solutions over time.
A partnership with local criminal justice resources brings together the expertise and broad-scale education of criminal justice team members, applying the science behind mental health, addiction and behavior to real-world situations. Emergency shelter resources, as the fifth goal of the St. Joseph Continuum of Care, means individuals can have greater access to beds and shelter in a safe and coordinated environment, working in sync with overarching homelessness resources. Across the Continuum of Care, outcomes are based on recovery from the underlying conditions that typically accompany homelessness, and opening new doors for a sustainable, productive future.
Every forward-thinking set of goals needs key partners, especially around complex problems like homelessness. Mosaic Life Care remains a key leader in the Continuum of Care goals as they align with the Imagine 2040 plan, offering health resources and also community leadership and empowerment skills through multiple initiatives. As a non-profit hospital, Mosaic Life Care conducts a Community Health Needs Assessment every three years to identify the greatest health needs. Through a community-wide survey, more than 700 responses were collected by the public. Three key areas of change emerged as primary health needs: mental health, substance use and access to health care for uninsured and low-income individuals.
Within the statistics, the science, the research and the collaborative goal setting, the focus for St. Joseph when it comes to homelessness remains simple and powerful as the city looks ahead: invest in people. And keep doing it. And get all voices to the table, creating some real synergy across multiple organizations who share the same awareness and vision. The goals and the approach are inclusive, choice-based and transparent.
It’s an “uncommon” approach to a serious and widespread human problem. The St. Joseph community should expect nothing less as the 2040 plan unfolds.
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