Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home

by Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home
Community COVID Housing Program- 5,000 Home

Emily grew up in a stable, upper-middle class family. Her dad worked for IBM for 36 years and her mom stayed home. Emily recalls that she “never had to take the bus to school.” After high school Emily met a man and quickly found herself in a severely abusive relationship where she suffered significant trauma that changed the course of her life and was the catalyst to finding escape through addiction.

 

Emily attempted to leave her partner many times, but always returned to avoid experiencing homelessness, until she became pregnant. Emily had wanted to be a mom more than anything, so she made the decision to leave, get clean, and joined a substance abuse rehabilitation program. However, Emily wasn’t able to get the help that she needed. Feeling hopeless, Emily made the gut-wrenching decision to place her 9-month-old up for adoption, so that her son could thrive. This sacrifice and loss drove her deeper into addiction, and she ended up on the streets… which is where Emily met Adam. 

 

Emily and Adam both felt like they had reached rock bottom, tired of using, and tired of staying up for days on end because living on the streets was so scary. They were on the brink of giving up when the Coalition’s outreach team, led by Eric, arrived. Eric let Emily and Adam know that the Coalition would be decommissioning their encampment in a couple weeks, and should they want it, there would a safe place for them at a temporary navigation center until they could move into permanent housing with supportive services. Neither Emily nor Adam believed what Eric had promised, until he pulled up in the outreach van two weeks later and asked if they were ready to go!

 

Emily and Adam moved into the temporary Navigation Center in January and have been sober since. They have been approved for housing and are just waiting on the inspection. Emily has enrolled in EMT classes, and Adam aspires to work on a homeless outreach team, decommissioning encampments like the one where he and Emily lived. Adam wants to offer hope and encouragement to others, that they too can get clean, and that there are organizations that they can place their trust in, providing safe homes to those who have found themselves lost. Next month Emily’s baby is turning 3 years old, and thanks to the support of the Coalition and her son’s adopted family, she will be at the birthday party to celebrate his beautiful life.

 

The Coalition for the Homeless leads the work to create positive outcomes like Emily’s, and our ability to do so is made possible by individuals like you who support the Community COVID Housing Program (CCHP)! Your donations have allowed the Coalition and our more than 100 partners to provide hope, second chances, and moments that have altered the trajectory of more than 25,000 lives since 2012!

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Officials from the City of Houston, Harris County, and the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless on Wednesday announced a $100 million initiative to house 7,000 more people experiencing homelessness and to make critical enhancements that will bring the region closer to ending homelessness. Federal COVID relief funding will be used for the second phase of the Community COVID Housing Program. The housing initiative has already housed a record number of people experiencing homelessness — more than 7,000 people since Oct. 2020.

Multimedia: click here to watch a recording of the press event.

 At the announcement, the City and the County also officially signed on to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)’s national House America Initiative.

“In Phase 1, we not only met our goal, but we also beat it and did so in record time,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We are not resting on our laurels, together, we will do more, and we must keep the momentum going. Therefore, Houston and Harris County are doubling down and once again partnering with the Coalition for the Homeless and fellow agencies to launch the largest and most ambitious homeless initiative in the history of the City and County. Together, we can strategically utilize COVID-19 related funding to turn the crisis of the pandemic into an opportunity to reduce homelessness further and save lives.”

 “By pulling together in the same direction, Harris County and Houston are showing the rest of America how to get within striking distance of solving an intractable issue like homelessness,” said County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “Our rapid deployment of creative, effective programs is changing countless lives for the better. This is how we make our community stronger, more resilient, and prosperous for everyone.” 

“After a lifetime of working in public safety, I have focused on keeping our entire community safe for decades,” said Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia. “We chose to partner again with the City of Houston and the Coalition for the Homeless on the Community COVID Housing Program because housing the homeless not only protects the homeless, it protects the broader community.”

“Everyone deserves access to a safe, stable, and affordable place to call home. Access to housing and shelter is a fundamental human right, yet we often treat housing as a commodity,” said Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis. “We have an opportunity to end chronic homelessness in our community. That’s why I am excited to support ongoing funding with the City of Houston and proud that the County will continue to invest in our homelessness system through the Community COVID Housing Program.”

“Although Houston and Harris County just joined the 60+ communities part of House America, they’ve been following the spirit of the initiative,” said Anthony Love, Interim Executive Director, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). “They used federal funding for the COVID homeless housing program to set goals and break new records. They permanently rehoused 5,000 people – a year before they expected. The House America community can learn from Houston and Harris County.”

“The Way Home, the local homeless response system, continues to prove out how collaboration among governments, nonprofits, and philanthropy can provide long-term fiscally and morally responsible solutions to homelessness,” said Michael Nichols, president and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County.

Funding for Phase 2 of housing-focused pandemic response

First announced in July 2020, the Community COVID Housing Program (CCHP) is a housing-focused response to the pandemic for people experiencing homelessness. Led by the Coalition and implemented by about a dozen homeless service provider agencies, the CCHP pioneered the use of housing as a pandemic response. It has become a model for other cities and counties across the country looking to use federal funding for maximum impact for people experiencing homelessness.

Harris County intends to invest $35 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) Local Fiscal Recovery Funds in Phase 2 of the CCHP, with $29.5 million committed by Commissioners Court this week on top of $5.5 million previously approved. The City of Houston plans allocate at least $35 million — including funds approved by City Council today for a $6.2 million housing navigation center — and helped secure $26 million from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). The Coalition will raise additional funding for Phase 2 from private philanthropy, making it a public-private partnership.

Partnership with national initiative

On Wednesday, the City and the County officially signed on to the House America Initiative. House America is a national partnership in which HUD and USICH invite local leaders to “use the historic investments provided through ARP to address the crisis of homelessness through a Housing First approach by immediately re-housing and building additional housing for people experiencing homelessness,” according to a release from USICH. This aligns with the approach that the City, County, Coalition, and community partners have been implementing successfully for over a year.

Success of Phase 1 of the Community COVID Housing Program

Through the first phase of the CCHP, the partners of The Way Home — the local homeless response system — have been able to accelerate their work and have housed more than 7,000 people experiencing homelessness — or on the verge of homelessness — since October 2020. The number of people permanently housed through the CCHP exceeds the number of people housed in the two previous years combined.

The initial goal of Phase 1 the housing initiative was to house 5,000 people over two years. Since the official start of the CCHP in October 2020:

  • More than 1,080 people experiencing chronic (long-term) homelessness have been housed in Permanent Supportive Housing,
  • More than 3,180 people have been housed via Rapid Rehousing (short-term rental assistance and light case management services),
  • And more than 2,780 people have been prevented from falling into homelessness via Diversion.
  • For a total of more than 7,000 people housed Oct. 1, 2020, to Jan. 11, 2022.

 

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Encampments aren’t safe or healthy places — least of all for the people living in them.

The Community COVID Housing Program (CCHP) is our region’s $65-million plan to serve 5,000 people experiencing homelessness over the next two years to limit the spread of COVID-19. This program has given the Coalition the additional resources to develop and implement a coordinated plan to address unsheltered homelessness by helping people living encampments move into permanent housing.
Working with several partners of The Way Home and local law enforcement, the Coalition’s outreach and project management teams have been able to draw on years of knowledge regarding what does — and doesn’t — work to house people living in encampments.
Over the past year, the Coalition and its partners have been able to decommission six different encampments throughout the City of Houston and Harris County. Contrary to a common misconception, people in encampments will, more often than not, accept permanent housing when it is offered to them. The proof: over 200 people were living in these encampments, and the majority of them are now residing in permanent housing! 
The Coalition’s staff has played a key leadership role on this encampment initiative. Decommissioning encampments is a community response that uses a system strategy of coordination across multiple partners and jurisdictions. The Coalition has convened public and elected officials and secured access to system resources to ensure that the tools are available to quickly move people out of encampments and into permanent housing. 
This work caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which commissioned a consultant to work with the Coalition’s staff to study our process for addressing encampments and create a “how-to” guide for other cities to follow our example. We are proud to be leading this innovative work that has propelled Houston back into the national spotlight on creative and effective ways to address homelessness. Click here to read the guide. 

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On July 1, 2020, the City of Houston, Harris County, and the Coalition for the Homeless announced a joint $65-million plan called the Community COVID Housing Program (CCHP), which will serve 5,000 people experiencing homelessness over the course of two years in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This four-part series, CCHP Explained, will dive into how we are serving those individuals and families through our COVID response: two permanent housing programs (Bridge to Permanent Supportive Housing and Rapid Re-housing), one new pilot intervention (Diversion), and four additional programs (Auxiliary/Social Distancing Emergency Shelters, Mental Health Case Management, Enhanced Street Outreach, and Permanent Supportive Housing Preservation). 
 
Over the past four weeks, we’ve been thrilled to share with you this innovative program. This work could not be done without the dedicated collaboration between our many private and public partners. Our region is proud to be leading the way in innovation for ending homelessness and responding to the pandemic. Today, join us for the last entry in our series as we dive into the four additional programs that round out the CCHP by accelerating access to permanent housing.

Auxiliary/Social Distancing Emergency Shelters

The shelters in The Way Home- CoC,  work hard to offer safe accommodations to as many people experiencing homelessness as possible. At the onset of COVID, social distancing guidelines added an extra challenge in keeping individuals safe. In the interest of the health and safety of clients and staff, shelters had to decrease capacity.

 

Emergency shelters helped curb the spread of COVID amongst people living in these congregate settings. Two auxiliary/social distancing emergency shelters—one men’s shelter operated by The Salvation Army of Greater Houston and a women’s shelter operated byCatholic Charities—were established following CDC guidelines. These shelters replaced some of the beds lost in other shelters due to decreased capacity and gave our existing shelters more space to allow for proper social distancing.

 

Housing assessments are also done for those staying in the emergency shelters, getting them on the waitlist for the right permanent housing program for them. Thanks to increased resources provided by the CCHP, including our Bridge Permanent Supportive Housingand Rapid Re-housing programs, many people from these social distancing emergency shelters are being permanently housed. 

 

Mental Health Case Management

 

Case managers work with clients who have been permanently housed to help them acclimate to their new life, including connecting them to resources like income or food. Thanks to the CCHP, it also means connections to mental health supports. 


Some clients have acute mental health crises or pre-existing disabilities that can make it challenging to maintain housing. The CCHP has provided resources for a new team administered through our local mental health authority, The Harris Center. These teams provide intensive, hands-on behavioral and mental health supports to the clients we serve who may be experiencing a mental health crisis. 


If the client is willing to participate, a case manager can submit a referral to The Harris Center. The Harris Center can then conduct a consultation and determine what mental health social services, if any, are most appropriate for the client. 


These services are designed to increase residential stability, help people remain off the streets, and help them maintain their connections to care. They are open to all housing programs and are only contingent on whether the client wants to participate. 

 

Enhanced Street Outreach

 

Enhanced Street Outreach are additional outreach teams we added to make sure we have full coverage throughout our Continuum of Care. Thanks to the CCHP, we have been able to expand homeless outreach to those living unsheltered outside of the inner-city core and into unincorporated Harris County. This team, employed by the Coalition, moves outside the walls of the agency to engage with people experiencing homelessness who may be disconnected from mainstream services and supports. Outreach teams provide on-the-spot assistance, assessments, and referral to housing.

 

 

The Coalition’s outreach team has also been able to tackle encampments thanks to additional CCHP resources. The Coalition for the Homeless, City of Houston, Harris County, and other partners have worked together to decommission five encampments so far in 2021. All individuals residing at these encampments have been offered a housing option, and the most of them have now been housed in one of our permanent housing programs. 


Thanks to the success we have seen in these five decommissions, the Coalition is developing Encampment Response Practice Standards. This project will document effective encampment decommissioning results as a national best practice and define strategy for ongoing encampment work. 

 

Permanent Supportive Housing Preservation

Permanent Supportive Housing Preservation was put in place to ensure that individuals housed prior to COVID did not see any of their housing or services disrupted at such a precarious time. CCHP resources were able to preserve these PSH units. Permanent Supportive Housing preservation was offered to all existing PSH providers. 

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For the past thirty-five years, Susanne has dedicated her life to two things: taking care of her home and her family. Born and raised in New York, Susanne and her family moved to Texas about 13 years ago. It was here that Susanne had to leave everything she has ever known behind and start over for the sake of her safety and her life.

Susanne was once a happily married woman; however, over the years her husband grew increasingly violent. Susanne sought help from therapists and doctors, but it wasn’t until one of them provided her with the crisis phone line to the Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC) that she truly understood the severity of her situation and learned that there was help available for her.

Following years of emotional and physical violence from her spouse, Susanne fled her home and sought help from HAWC.

Leaving her home and trusting strangers to help her wasn’t easy. Initially it was terrifying, but Susanne felt relieved after walking into HAWC’s doors and being able to sleep through the night for the first time in over three years. Because of the staff at the HAWC shelter, Susanne finally felt safe and free of the violence that had enveloped her life.

Susanne’s advice to domestic violence survivors – click the link to listen!

After allowing Susanne some time to settle, HAWC contacted the Coalition for the Homeless, lead agency to The Way Home Continuum of Care, to conduct a coordinated access housing assessment for Susanne. Brandon Oliver, senior outreach associate with the Coalition for the Homeless, was able to enroll Susanne into the newly established Community COVID Housing Program (CCHP).

CCHP is a $65M housing-focused pandemic response that will serve approximately 5,000 people experiencing homelessness by fall 2022. People who are currently experiencing literal homelessness (e.g., living in shelters, encampments or on the streets) as well as those who may fall into homelessness as a result of the economic effects of the coronavirus are eligible to receive permanent housing through CCHP.

Once referred to housing through CCHP, Susanne was partnered with The Salvation Army of Greater Houston and case manager Kiley Martens. Susanne constantly refers to Kiley as her “angel” from The Salvation Army, as both she and Kiley worked diligently to get her out of the shelter and into a home to call her own. Thanks to the additional resources provided by the CCHP, Kiley found a home for Susanne within only a couple of weeks.

Susanne’s introduction to The Salvation Army of Greater Houston – click the link to listen!

Although Susanne has not yet moved into her new home, she explained all the feelings she has about having a place to call her own: Relief that she is no longer in an abusive home and relationship — and that she can now give up her bed at HAWC for the next woman who is strong enough to seek help. Gratitude for HAWC, The Salvation Army of Greater Houston, and the Coalition for implementing programs like CCHP to help people experiencing homelessness and help others to safely navigate out of violent situations. And excitement to start a new life, in a home to call her own, free from violence, and free to help others who, like her, were in an unfortunate situation.

Susanne’s gratitude for the system – click the link to listen! 

Susanne’s story started with her seeking help; because she was strong enough to flee a violent situation and reach out to the resources available to her, she was able to change her life through CCHP and with the help of our partners

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Organization Information

Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County

Location: Houston, TX - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @homelessHOU
Project Leader:
Renee Cavazos
Houston, TX United States
$4,242 raised of $1,000,000 goal
 
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