Shifting Gears to Meet Local Homeless System Needs during COVID
When the pandemic shutdown hit our nation in March, our consultants immediately began helping clients to address a host of new challenges in sheltering, housing, and supporting the service needs of very low-income people with disabilities who were homeless or at risk of becoming so. This population was (and remains) at heightened risk from COVID-19, while the pandemic has simultaneously placed unique forms of stress on the very systems intended to assist them. For TAC’s Housing Team, one important opportunity to help came from our partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), several of whose programs, strengthened by CARES Act resources, have provided vital support for efforts to prevent and end homelessness during COVID.
- The federal CARES Act infused additional funding into the Emergency Solutions Grants program, which helps people quickly regain permanent housing after a housing crisis. A team of TAC consultants and subcontractors was tapped to provide coaching for cities and states that faced key challenges to utilize these funds. Our technical assistance has helped communities develop effective rehousing strategies, coordinate investment planning, build capacity to scale up the use of ESG resources, incorporate racial equity into local COVID response efforts, and adapt coordinated entry processes to accommodate pandemic-related requirements.
- TAC consultants now staff eight regional teams that are points of contact for 77 local Continuums of Care (CoCs), with two TAC staff members serving as Regional Team Coordinators and three others providing COVID-specific coaching and expertise.
- When HUD needed to reach local homeless system providers with quickly evolving information, TAC helped develop and produce a range of brief guidance documents on Coordinating with Public Health for Safe Transitions into Housing; What to Expect from Remote Case Management; Inspired Ideas for Addressing Loneliness; and many other topics.
- Continuing a tradition of leadership in providing TA for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program, TAC has helped grantees plan for maximally effective use of CARES Act funds, including through creatively combining these funds with other community resources such as Ryan White program monies. TAC consultants have also developed webinars, toolkits, and other resources to support HOPWA grantees in serving people with HIV/AIDS who face an additional risk from COVID-19.
Accessible — Interconnected — Effective — Just
Crisis Services: Meeting Needs, Saving Lives, a new resource from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is based on these four standards. The book brings together SAMHSA’s best practice toolkit on the National Guidelines for Behavioral Health Crisis Care with related papers contributed by national experts, including several TAC consultants. “Effective Behavioral Health Crisis Care for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness,” by Kevin Martone, Francine Arienti, Rachel Post, and Ashley Mann-McLellan, explores issues that should be considered in the design and implementation of core crisis system components, with specific attention to the needs of people who are homeless. “Addressing Substance Use in Behavioral Health Crisis Care,” co-authored by Becky Boss, Tyler Sadwith, and Brian Daly, highlights states and programs that are successfully integrating SUDs into the SAMHSA toolkit’s core services; identifies essential principles for effective integration; and describes useful crisis service practices that are specific to people with SUDs. The book is available as a free download.
TAC Staff in Action
In October, Senior Associate Rachel Post worked with Confluence Health in Wenatchee, WA, on a 3-part Housing and Homeless Symposium that brought the hospital system together with the local CoC, managed care organizations, and key city and county leaders to discuss expanding affordable housing and service coordination for high-cost, high-need individuals experiencing homelessness; Senior Policy Advisor Lisa Sloane recently joined the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s weekly national call on Coronavirus, Disasters, and Housing/Homelessness to present on the importance of non-congregate housing for people with disabilities and policy solutions to protect people with disabilities from increased risk of COVID-19 infection; Lisa also presented on housing challenges facing people with disabilities during the pandemic on the Administration for Community Living webinar “HCBS Innovations During COVID: Payers and Providers”; In November, Senior Associate Alicia Woodsby presented to Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice Policy Oversight Council on creating a housing/homelessness survey in the Court Support Services data system for clients at entry and exit; and at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) national conference, Alicia also co-led a workshop with Cincinnati colleagues on the two states’ experiences as TA sites in CJJ’s Collaborating for Change program. As a lead TA provider for the HUD 811 Project Rental Assistance (PRA) program, TAC successfully hosted the first videoconference edition of the annual PRA institute in October, attended by 29 grantees and offering sessions facilitated by TAC Executive Director Kevin Martone; Senior Consultants Sherry Lerch, Lisa Sloane, and Jim Yates; Senior Associates Ayana Gonzalez, Nicole LiBaire, Rachel Post, Gina Schaak, and Liz Stewart; Associate Ellen Fitzpatrick; and Project Support Specialist Laura Harris.
Since our last newsletter, TAC has been fortunate to welcome three new staff members: LaMont Green, Senior Associate on the Housing Team, who is based in Tacoma, WA and brings nearly 20 years of experience helping communities identify and dismantle the persistent drivers of inequity in human services, homelessness, housing, behavioral health, and criminal justice systems; Alicia Woodsby, Senior Associate on the Human Services Team, who has led statewide public policy initiatives in Connecticut to develop housing and services solutions for vulnerable and complex populations; and John Abbott, our new Director of Business Operations, who brings over 15 years’ experience in financial and operational management for nonprofit organizations and sponsored programs, including internationally. Visit our staff page to learn more about LaMont, Alicia, John, and all our team members. Meantime, we will soon be saying farewell and wishing a wonderful retirement to Ruthanne James, who has directed TAC’s business operations — and so much more! — for over 12 years. Congratulations to Tyler Sadwith, who is now a Senior Consultant on our Human Services Team, and to Kim Wilder, who is now TAC’s Senior Federal Contracts Assistant. And last but certainly not least, congratulations to Senior Associate Douglas Tetrault on the birth of a new daughter, Amelia Ann — we look forward to meeting her in person as soon as we can all safely gather again!