Homeless assistance program coming together

In the next month, the first collaborative, comprehensive plan to address the county’s homeless problem will be put in motion.

The local homelessness initiative No Place to Call Home is set to slowly unveil a system of coordinated assessment, evaluation of individuals and families, case management and assistance.

The United Way of Johnson County, as well as a partnership of agencies, organizations and individuals working to reduce homelessness, is finalizing plans to admit the first clients in a pilot program starting Sept. 30, said Nancy Plake, executive director of the United Way of Johnson County.

“We’re going to do a soft launch starting then, to get together all of the different core pieces that we need,” she said.

No Place to Call Home has been working on the initiative for more than a year, starting by investigating solutions to the homeless issue.

The effort began with an in-depth report commissioned by the United Way, which brought together statistics on poverty, local employment and wages, cost of living and other factors to more clearly grasp the extent of homelessness in the county.

In addition to the report, organizers hosted a series of stakeholder meetings to find out what the community impact of homelessness in Johnson County is. Nearly 100 people from faith-based groups, schools, service agencies and law enforcement attended the meetings, offering their observations and possible solutions.

Analyzing all of the information compiled from the meetings, the No Place to Call Home steering committee talked about the most effective way to start addressing the problem.

A coordinated approach was best for a number of reasons, Plake said.

The program starts with entry system, identifying individuals in need of help through partnering sources, such as the United Way Helpline, churches, schools, agencies and the faith-based community.

An emphasis will be made to find what assistance can be given quickly, including temporary housing. Clients will also be referred to a case manager through a network of existing organizations in the county.

Work is in progress getting the core case management agencies signed up so that the referral process into the program can start, Plake said.

The process is expected to evolve as it starts, once agencies begin working with clients and the wrinkles between entry, case management and financial and housing assistance are cleaned up.

Organizers are also adjusting their assistance database software to function within the new parameters No Place to Call Home has established.

“There are a lot of pieces that need to come together with this,” Plake said.

As the program starts circulating clients and potential hiccups are addressed, the plan is to admit more families over time.

The original goal is to help 22 families or individuals in the first year, with money through grants and the support of local churches, Plake said.

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.