By Michelle Hankes
In a partnership between Homes for Good, ShelterCare, Lane County and Quantum Property Management, The Keystone, a 15-unit housing community for families with children who are experiencing chronic homelessness in Lane County, was recently opened. This housing community is almost fully occupied, meaning that 15 families will be home for the holidays for their first time in several years.
There are many circumstances that may cause someone to lose housing, such as surviving on disability income, child care costs, medical and insurance expenses, job loss, lack of low-income housing options, living on a single income and a multitude of others. Housing First is a research-based best-practice model, which prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, thus surpassing these barriers.
When individuals are unhoused they are living in survival mode. It can be difficult to focus on achieving goals such as finding a job or improving your mental health when you are worried about the safety of your belongings, yourself or your children. ShelterCare utilizes the Housing First model in all of our programs in an effort to provide the stability our program participants need to grow.
At The Keystone, ShelterCare provides case management and support services to residents in order to help them pursue their goals, often including working towards financial stability and getting into their own independent housing. Support services include housing specialists who coach program participants on how to become and remain housed, which are skills that many people who have experienced homelessness can forget as their main focus becomes surviving.
We also provide program participants with peer support specialists who come from the perspective of experiencing a similar situation at one point in their lives and, therefore, can understand what someone may be going through better than most. This lived experience aids them in knowing how to support the families at The Keystone in the ways that are most helpful to them.
Support services like housing specialists and peer support specialists are what make permanent supported housing locations like The Keystone so successful at transitioning people from chronic homelessness to independent housing. This type of program has been successful across the country, especially in cases where there is a partnership between local government and the nonprofit sector, as in the case of The Keystone, where ShelterCare partnered with Lane County and Homes for Good.
In order to house more families before the next holiday season, partnerships like this must continue and utilize the Housing First model so we can provide the support chronically homeless individuals need to become stably housed.
Michelle Hankes is ShelterCare’s CEO.