Access: The TAC Blog
Improving Homelessness Response Systems in California’s Counties
Under a new contract with California’s Department of Housing and Community Development, TAC is providing capacity-building technical assistance (TA) to help California’s communities enhance their homeless crisis response systems. First, TAC staff traveled with state officials and TA peers to meet with homeless system representatives from around the state, learning about their needs and introducing potential TA resources. Since then, TAC has been engaged by several communities, including Butte County where we are helping with disaster recovery after the devastating 2018 Camp Fire.
In Vermont, a Focus on Ending Youth Homelessness
Through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Vermont Balance of State Continuum of Care became an official Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program site in the summer of 2018. This award provides support to the CoC and its Youth Action Board (YAB) as they develop a plan to prevent and end youth homelessness in 13 of Vermont's 14 counties. TAC Associates Lauren Knott and Ellen Fitzpatrick are helping CoC leaders to develop and drive the planning process - focusing especially on strengthening youth voice, analyzing local data, and defining the CoC's vision for the initiative. With the CoC's written plan to HUD submitted and now approved, TAC is now helping with project selection and the implementation process. TAC staff members were also fortunate to participate in a two-day Youth Collaboration training facilitated on-site by True Colors United and including both YAB members and CoC leaders. TAC has supported the Vermont Balance of State CoC as it incorporate takeaways from this training and creates a system in which authentic youth collaboration is at the forefront of all planning to prevent and end youth homelessness in Vermont.
TAC Staff in Action
More than 700 leaders and managers from Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grantee organizations attended five regional meetings in January, focused on rapid resolution — with TACsters Phil Allen, Ellen Fitzpatrick, Marie Herb, Ashley Mann-McLellan, Naomi Sweitzer, Douglas Tetrault, and Jim Yates providing coordination and giving presentations; Associate Ashley Mann-McLellan presented on “Designing Coordinated Entry Systems and Prioritization to Better Serve Individual Adults” at the Solutions for Individual Homeless Adults conference sponsored by the National Alliance to End Homelessness (BONUS: Check out Ashley’s blog post on what’s working in coordinated entry!); and Senior Associate Rachel Post led two sessions on Assertive Community Treatment and intensive case management at the Fairbanks (AK) Symposium on Homelessness.
FAIRBANKS IS THE REGIONAL HUB for interior Alaska, an area larger than the state of Texas. The city’s need for supportive housing is amplified by its remote rural and frontier location and extreme arctic conditions. Although the number of people experiencing homelessness in Fairbanks — approximately 250 people at any given time — seems small compared to what other major U.S. cities report, the impact of homelessness in this community is an important factor: Even during bouts of -50° Fahrenheit temperatures, Fairbanks routinely has more than 50 people trying to survive in local encampments. There have been times when dramatic temperature changes caught encampment residents off guard, resulting in numerous cold weather injuries and even some deaths.
Since 2014, TAC has worked with state and local partners on strategies to create permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing opportunities for Alaskans. Last December, TAC was invited to facilitate the Fairbanks Symposium on Homelessness, with the goal of generating momentum toward a community planning strategy for tackling homelessness in some of the most diverse geography and climate in the United States. As in other cities and towns across the country, both the cost of housing and a lack of available units present significant challenges. But the "must do" attitude of the local Fairbanks community has already resulted in remarkable progress, and can serve as a beacon for those working in other rural communities to prevent and end homelessness.
The Fairbanks Housing and Homeless Coalition is leading the charge, representing more than 20 local organizations that provide shelter, support, and opportunities for community members struggling with housing barriers. Since the Symposium, the city’s housing and homelessness coordinator has brought local agencies together for more planning. Collectively, the group has contributed an estimated $58,360 worth of in-kind donations to initiate a program that can quickly connect families and individuals experiencing homelessness to permanent, private market housing through intensive case management, applicable employment services, and tapering financial support. Just this month, the Alaska Mental Health Trust announced that it will fully fund this local rapid re-housing program!
The Fairbanks Rescue Mission, which is already implementing rapid re-housing for Veterans through a federal Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant, has been designated as the lead agency for the award. The funding provided by the Trust will allow the new program to hire two full-time staff members and assist approximately forty families a year with housing, case management, and landlord support. The Trust has given a further boost to efforts in the region by providing funding for the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness to hire a rural housing planner who can help build local coalitions in rural Alaska and improve the region’s readiness to apply for funding to meet its needs.
Fairbanks’ challenging environmental conditions and extremely rural setting make providing effective and targeted services to the community’s most vulnerable individuals a high priority. Fortunately, the community’s determination to make life better for its least advantaged members is just what is needed.
Long-Range Planning for Supportive Housing in New Mexico
Beginning with the successful launch of the New Mexico Behavioral Health Purchasing Collaborative Long Range Supportive Housing Plan in December of 2007, TAC has supported the state's sustained effort to create and maintain independent, decent, safe, and affordable housing options linked to flexible community-based supports - a model commonly referred to as permanent supportive housing (PSH). Now, with the release of the new Strategic Plan for Supportive Housing in New Mexico: 2018-2023, co-authored by Cynthia Melugin of the New Mexico Human Services Department and TAC Senior Consultants Jim Yates and Sherry Lerch, the state is excited and empowered to continue creating new PSH opportunities - while also advancing efforts to realign New Mexico's behavioral health services system. New Mexico aspires to lead by example, adopting innovative strategies to address the challenges of operating PSH across a rural frontier state with a diverse population.
TAC Staff in Action
Associate Phil Allen, TA & Training Coordinator Kyia Watkins, and Senior Consultant Jim Yates, in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, led a first-ever two-day Program Manager Academy for 75 Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program managers from across the country; Associate Amy Horton conducted a site visit in New York, NY as part of SAMHSA's national evaluation of the Cooperative Agreements to Benefit Homeless Individuals (CABHI) grant program; Associate Ashley Mann-McLellan and two young adult TA providers from the National Youth Forum on Homelessness attended a two-day workshop together in King County, WA on incorporating youth voices into ending youth homelessness; Ashley also attended this month’s National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference on Youth and Family Homelessness, where she presented on infusing behavioral health partnerships into housing models; Kevin Martone, TAC’s Executive Director, was at the conference too, facilitating a panel discussion he organized on Medicaid and homelessness — and in February, Kevin spoke at the Families USA Health Action Conference on “Reconstructing a Fragmented Behavioral Health System through Wellness and Whole Person Care”; Senior Associate Gina Schaak and Senior Policy Advisor Lisa Sloane headed to Washington, DC for the National Low income Housing Coalition’s annual legislative forum; and Associate Douglas Tetrault, in partnership with the VA SSVF Program Office, led a day-long planning meeting in San Juan, PR focused on efforts to end homelessness among veterans following the devastation of hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Congratulations to Associate Lauren Knott and her family on the birth of Eliza Everett Knott — glad to have you on the team, Eliza!