There is one thing that our growing cadre of case managers has learned this year, it’s how hard it is to get people who are chronically homeless into permanent housing. Over the last 3 months, with intensive work, and with hiring a new “housing specialist” to identify housing options and work with landlords to overcome barriers to housing faced by our community members, OCP has placed about 15 people into permanent housing. While that number does not sound high, it has made a significant dent in the number of people who are homeless and looking for housing. Fifteen people is 20% of those who were homeless 3 months ago, and that is huge!
While Mercy House has been using funding from the CARES Act to place 25-30 homeless persons who are at high risk for COVID in motel rooms, there are another 30 or so folks who are living on the streets, in ravines, in campgrounds, behind businesses, on the steps of churches, and in front of the County government building. These folks need attention too. While the City continues to work with Open Doors and other homeless service providers to come up with a year-round shelter, OCP is venturing out in faith to establish a new “Homelessness to Housing” program focused on helping chronically homeless persons to obtain permanent housing. The goals of the program are to 1) provide new and creative affordable housing options for very low-income and homeless persons; 2) advocate for policy changes that can affect affordable housing in our community by increasing allowed-density and starting a Housing Trust Fund; and 3) provide supportive case management to those in housing who need it, so they can maintain access to that housing and not lose it.
The OCP Board of Directors recently approved this new direction, yet made clear its intent to keep the funding stream for the new program separate from OCP’s regular operating income streams. We believe there is sufficient local, state, federal, and private foundation funds to sustain the program, and there is potential to generate some income from the houses and programs we will run. OCP has received initial support for the project from an anonymous donor that is providing $20,000 in matching funds. The Denton Family Foundation responded with a $10,000 gift and a local church did the same. So all matching funds are in! OCP is now ready to kick-off the housing program by hiring a program director. We would ask that OCP donors not contribute to the housing fund unless it is above and beyond your normal giving to OCP, since we don’t want to negatively impact the normal income stream for OCP day programs. Persons interested in applying for the position of “Housing Program Director” should visit OCP’s website and review the job description and requirements before applying. For questions, please contact executive director Sam Nickels at Sam@OurCommunityPlace.org.