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State awards homeless grant

Mike Conway

Post Date:09/21/2016

H2H will bring services straight to the homeless


Homeless to Housing Team takes new approach to old problem


A homeless outreach team will soon be hitting the streets of Merced, talking to the City's homeless, arranging housing and directing them to the services they need.


The Homeless to Housing Team, the H2H Team, is funded by $730,564 in Emergency Solutions Grants through the state Housing and Community Development Department. The funding will pay for the team for two years.


'This means we are able to bring services directly to the people who need them,' said Merced City Manager Steve Carrigan. Carrigan is also the chairman of the Merced County Continuum of Care, a local coalition of government agencies and non-profits committed to ending homelessness.


'We don't have to wait for folks to come to us, we can reach out to the neediest and find them and help them address their problems right now,' Carrigan said.


The team will include two full-time street outreach workers with experience working with chronically homeless individuals and families. They will be hired by the United Way of Merced County to prepare people to obtain housing.


The other members of the team will be two fulltime housing navigators with experience in identifying affordable housing opportunities and assisting the homeless obtain and maintain housing. Those two workers will be Sierra Saving Grace employees.


The team will go out on the streets, parks, shelters, and other places that homeless congregate to document who they are, what they need and then connect them to the appropriate services and housing.


'This is a new approach to ending local homelessness,' said Joe Colletti of Urban Initiatives. He helped write the grant application for the team. 'We want to target chronically homeless people who are languishing on the streets and have become the most visible and hardest to house and the most likely to die on the streets.'


Part of the new approach is to implement 'rapid rehousing' as part of the Continuum of Care's Housing First policy. Rapid rehousing moves chronic and non-chronic homeless people quickly into housing and then focuses on the issues that may have contributed to their homelessness. Those issues could be lack of income, substance abuse or mental health issues.


'We are excited and honored to receive the funding to provide housing and case management/navigation for this innovative H2H project, said Kristin Bizzack, the executive director of Sierra Saving Grace. 'The collaboration between Continuum of Care agencies and the state funds creates housing opportunities for a great number of those currently living on the street in Merced County.' 


'The funding to create the H2H team will significantly further the efforts to end homelessness in Merced County,' said Carol Bowman, the CEO of United Way. 'We have known for a while that little progress could be made without the dedicated Street Outreach workers and Navigators, so filling this gap means we will reach and house those most vulnerable, chronically homeless persons living on the streets.'


The Housing First policy ' a national best practice in homelessness -- puts a roof over people's head and provides a variety of social services and counseling to help people stay housed and improve their well-being. The old model had people address those issues first before they would get housed, so many never got in from the cold.


While the team is working with homeless people, it will be entering data into a system that is used by local homeless providers so that the individual's progress can be tracked and no one falls through the cracks. It also prevents duplication of services and identifies those with the most severe needs and prioritizes needs.

The Homeless to Housing Team will be able to respond to community requests for intervention if homeless encampments are created or other issues arise. The team will regularly work closely with law enforcement make sure personal and environmental health and safety issues are addressed, the right services are provided, criminal behavior is addressed by law enforcement and that the constitutional rights of the homeless are not violated.


There were 353 adults and 3 children living without shelter, according to the 2016 Merced County Homeless Count and Survey. Out of that group, 55 percent were chronically homeless and had multiple and severe needs that included chronic health problems, physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, mental health problems and substance abuse issues.


One in four of the homeless had been released from jail or prison after serving a court-ordered sentence and nearly 10 percent had a health-care provider tell them they had suffered a traumatic brain injury. Almost the entire group, 98 percent, had a monthly income less than $1,000 a month.


Those surveyed had ties to Merced County, with 79 percent first becoming homeless while living in Merced County. There were 69 percent who had family or friends who lived in Merced County, or they worked or were working in the County or attended or were attending school in Merced County.

H2H will bring services straight to the homeless

Homeless to Housing Team takes new approach to old problem

A homeless outreach team will soon be hitting the streets of Merced, talking to the City's homeless, arranging housing and directing them to the services they need.

The Homeless to Housing Team, the H2H Team, is funded by $730,564 in Emergency Solutions Grants through the state Housing and Community Development Department. The funding will pay for the team for two years.

'This means we are able to bring services directly to the people who need them,' said Merced City Manager Steve Carrigan. Carrigan is also the chairman of the Merced County Continuum of Care, a local coalition of government agencies and non-profits committed to ending homelessness.

'We don't have to wait for folks to come to us, we can reach out to the neediest and find them and help them address their problems right now,' Carrigan said.

The team will include two full-time street outreach workers with experience working with chronically homeless individuals and families. They will be hired by the United Way of Merced County to prepare people to obtain housing.

The other members of the team will be two fulltime housing navigators with experience in identifying affordable housing opportunities and assisting the homeless obtain and maintain housing. Those two workers will be Sierra Saving Grace employees.

The team will go out on the streets, parks, shelters, and other places that homeless congregate to document who they are, what they need and then connect them to the appropriate services and housing.

'This is a new approach to ending local homelessness,' said Joe Colletti of Urban Initiatives. He helped write the grant application for the team. 'We want to target chronically homeless people who are languishing on the streets and have become the most visible and hardest to house and the most likely to die on the streets.'

Part of the new approach is to implement 'rapid rehousing' as part of the Continuum of Care's Housing First policy. Rapid rehousing moves chronic and non-chronic homeless people quickly into housing and then focuses on the issues that may have contributed to their homelessness. Those issues could be lack of income, substance abuse or mental health issues.

'We are excited and honored to receive the funding to provide housing and case management/navigation for this innovative H2H project, said Kristin Bizzack, the executive director of Sierra Saving Grace. 'The collaboration between Continuum of Care agencies and the state funds creates housing opportunities for a great number of those currently living on the street in Merced County.' 

'The funding to create the H2H team will significantly further the efforts to end homelessness in Merced County,' said Carol Bowman, the CEO of United Way. 'We have known for a while that little progress could be made without the dedicated Street Outreach workers and Navigators, so filling this gap means we will reach and house those most vulnerable, chronically homeless persons living on the streets.'

The Housing First policy ' a national best practice in homelessness -- puts a roof over people's head and provides a variety of social services and counseling to help people stay housed and improve their well-being. The old model had people address those issues first before they would get housed, so many never got in from the cold.

While the team is working with homeless people, it will be entering data into a system that is used by local homeless providers so that the individual's progress can be tracked and no one falls through the cracks. It also prevents duplication of services and identifies those with the most severe needs and prioritizes needs.

The Homeless to Housing Team will be able to respond to community requests for intervention if homeless encampments are created or other issues arise. The team will regularly work closely with law enforcement make sure personal and environmental health and safety issues are addressed, the right services are provided, criminal behavior is addressed by law enforcement and that the constitutional rights of the homeless are not violated.

There were 353 adults and 3 children living without shelter, according to the 2016 Merced County Homeless Count and Survey. Out of that group, 55 percent were chronically homeless and had multiple and severe needs that included chronic health problems, physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, mental health problems and substance abuse issues.

One in four of the homeless had been released from jail or prison after serving a court-ordered sentence and nearly 10 percent had a health-care provider tell them they had suffered a traumatic brain injury. Almost the entire group, 98 percent, had a monthly income less than $1,000 a month.

Those surveyed had ties to Merced County, with 79 percent first becoming homeless while living in Merced County. There were 69 percent who had family or friends who lived in Merced County, or they worked or were working in the County or attended or were attending school in Merced County.

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