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Reaching Home: Missoula's 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness

 

"Reaching Home: Missoula's 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness" is the result of more than a year and a half of research by a volunteer working group appointed by Missoula Mayor John Engen and County County Commissioner Jean Curtiss.

 

Reaching Home welcomes new Coordinator! 

 

Theresa Williams, LCSW, is our new Coordinator for Reaching Home. Theresa joined us less than six months ago and already has demonstrated her passion and commitment to ending homelessness. Her enthusiasm for working with diverse and underserved populations began a little over 13 years ago when she worked at the Poverello Center, Inc., Missoula’s emergency shelter.  Theresa has operated within all aspects of social work practice (i.e. providing direct clinical services, collaborating within multiple systems, raising awareness and performing administrative and program development functions) and her experience includes a broad spectrum of homeless housing and indirect/direct service delivery: street outreach, emergency shelters (family and individuals), housing first (Safe Haven), permanent housing (rental, voucher assistance), and the Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS).

 

As we embark on the 5th year of the plan, we are very fortunate to have Theresa steer the ship and help us maintain the momentum of the Ten Year Plan to  End Homelessness. 

 

Reaching Home is moving ahead!

Reaching Home has recently been identified as an initiative under the city’s new Office of Housing and Community Development.  Our Reaching Home Coordinator, Theresa, is now responsible for Coordinating the At-Risk Housing Coalition (ARHC), which is now located under the Office of Housing and Community Development. ARHC is an ongoing task force comprised of representatives from health and human service organizations working on issues and projects surrounding low-income housing and homelessness in Missoula as well as coordinating the local effort to plan and provide comprehensive services through a continuum of care.  With the help of the ARHC members, Theresa plans and organizes the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Survey and Housing Inventory, annual Project Homeless Connect, National Homeless Persons’ Memorial and SOAR (SSI/SSD Outreach, Access and Recovery).

 

Theresa is also a Crisis Intervention Team Coordinator for Missoula County and helps educate law enforcement on signs/symptoms of mental illness, de-escalation techniques and resources for individuals diagnosed with mental health/co-occurring substance use disorders (most of these individuals are experiencing homelessness or at-risk). CIT is a collaborative effort between law enforcement, mental health agencies and community resource providers and the goal is to divert individuals experiencing a mental health crisis from the Montana State Hospital and the criminal justice system when possible and safe, and instead connect them to appropriate local mental health services that allow them to stay in their communities.

Can we really end homelessness? Yes, we can!
 
We know that people are skeptical about the idea of ending homelessness. What does it even mean? Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness has provided this operational definition that Reaching Home endorses:
“An end to homelessness does not mean that no one will ever experience a housing crisis again. Changing economic realities, the unpredictability of life, and unsafe or unwelcoming family environments may create situations where individuals, families, or youth could experience, re-experience, or be at risk of homelessness. 
 
An end to homelessness means that every community will have a systematic response in place that ensures homelessness is prevented whenever possible or is otherwise a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience. 
 
Specifically, every community will have the capacity to:
  • Quickly identify and engage people at risk of and experiencing homelessness.
  • Intervene to prevent the loss of housing and divert people from entering the homelessness service system.
  • Provide immediate access to shelter and crisis services, without barriers to entry, while permanent stable housing and appropriate support are being secured.
  • When homelessness does occur, quickly connect people to housing assistance and services—tailored to their unique needs and strengths—to help them achieve and maintain stable housing.”
 
On February 21-22, 2017, Reaching Home and the Office of Housing and Community Development convened over 35 key homeless system stakeholders for a Coordinated Entry Re-Design Workshop. The stakeholders discussed local, statewide and national best practices and made proposed decisions on the future of Coordinated Entry in Missoula County for the ARHC Board to consider and adopt. At the core of Coordinated Entry, the goal is to address the barriers that people experiencing homelessness encounter when they attempt to address their housing crisis. Coordinated Entry streamlines and reduces duplication of housing and service provider efforts, provides system-level data to assist with strategic planning and decision making, and results in an intentional process of targeting and prioritizing limited resources for people who are identified as the most vulnerable. We hope that we will fully implement the new Coordinated Entry components by January 23, 2018.
 
For more information, please visit the following web links:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Click here for the 10-Year Plan 

Want to know more? Contact Theresa Williams. You can reach her at theresa@missoulaunitedway.org or by calling 549-6104.