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 byThe Salvation Army of Greater Houstonand 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 ourBridge Permanent Supportive HousingandRapid Re-housingprograms, 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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