Make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring.
Did you know that something as simple as safe, affordable housing is a huge part of stabilizing other parts of a person’s life?
That’s why our community has united to created Greater Helena Area Housing First! This effort includes various facets that are all designed to make collaborative work easier and more effective, creating a more efficient response to our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. All our partners in housing services have been invited to participate in this working group. The efforts include weekly Case Conferencing meetings and the Coordinated Entry System and are connected with other housing efforts in the tri-county area.
Coordinated Entry is an online system that enables programs and services that meet basic needs to collect and share data, putting the burden of response on service agencies instead of vulnerable clients. This system identifies best housing options and reduces the time clients have to spend searching for housing and related services on their own. This speeds up communication, allows for regular updates of cases, and makes referrals to services clients need significantly easier! Six local organizations have volunteered to serve as “front doors” for Coordinated Entry, collecting intake information and adding individuals into this confidential system. These organizations are Good Samaritan Ministries, Healthcare for the Homeless, Our Place, PureView Health Center, The Salvation Army, and Volunteers of America, though the City, County, other nonprofits, and the faith community are also involved in making this system successful.
The Coordinated Entry system enables us to have a better understanding of those who experience homelessness and adds valuable data and stories to the knowledge we already have through the annual Point-in-Time survey.
Clients give permission for their information to be shared at weekly Case Conferencing meetings. These meetings are confidential and include representatives and case workers from housing and mental health service providers throughout the area. During these meetings, specific cases are discussed, referrals are made, and people who are successfully housed are celebrated. This meeting also helps identify gaps in community services. This team, plus 20 other agencies, are collaborating to fill these gaps. The gaps include finding enough landlords who want to work with clients within the system to help stabilize their lives. Engaging landlords is a primary goal for the Case Conferencing group.
Through these combined efforts, over 144 people have been housed in our community (106 single individuals, 28 families, and 9 youth) – no small feat, considering the local shortage of housing! Our community is coming together to overcome homelessness.
*Collaborative partners for this project include City and County Departments, Good Samaritan Ministries, Healthcare for the Homeless, Our Place, PureView Health Center, The Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, Helena Housing Authority, The Center for Mental Health, Helena Indian Alliance, The Friendship Center, Florence Crittenton Home, Western Montana Mental Health Center, The Lewis and Clark Library, Helena Food Share, Montana Joining Community Forces, Rocky Mountain Development Center (Head Start), the Partnership for Home Visiting, and United Way of the Lewis and Clark Area.