Summit identifies path to better serve homeless

May. 08, 2013 @ 12:43 PM

Community members agreed that they need a network and better communication in order to best serve the homeless, hungry and needy in the community at Tuesday’s Hunger and Homeless Summit.

The summit was hosted by Union County Community Shelter. It was the first of what they hope to make an annual event. 

Religious, community and government workers gathered, along with members of other non-profit organizations in the county. 

One client at the shelter, Gloria Allen, illustrated the importance of the topic with her story. She lived in her car for two months with a sick child before seeking help at the shelter. She had a job that required her to work about 15 hours a day. She was put into the motel program and given a budget plan to save money every month. 

“My goal was to become self-sufficient, so I wouldn’t go back to the shelter,” Allen said. 

She found permanent housing through the shelter, who helps with her payments. She said the location is great because it is near her mother, who is able to watch her child. 

Sadly, due to health issues, Allen was let go from her job after seven years of service. She is currently working with the Employment Securities Commission, Department of Social Services and the shelter while she looks for a job on a daily basis. She thanked the shelter for helping her move from her car to housing.

The summit focused on the housing services the shelter offers to homeless families, including the motel program, the rapid re-housing program, the Harvest House and the Promise Partners collaboration. 

Harvest House is a joint venture between the shelter and Central United Methodist Church. The church provided the home and property, while the shelter offers the housing to qualified families. Families stay for about a six-month period. So far, they have hosted two families who moved on to permanent housing and two short-term families.

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“We feel very good about this program,” David English, a Union County Community Shelter board member and member at Central United Methodist, said. 

The shelter also runs a Promise Partners Program, where a group partners with a family in need, subsidizes rent payments and provides other necessities. The shelter picks the families for this program as well. 

Many leaders said they have a problem with people coming into their churches or organizations for help and they either do not know what to do or help them and end up being fleeced. 

“We need to work together on this,” Kathy Bragg, executive director of Union County Community Shelter, said. She added that if the organizations refer families to them, they will do the hard work involved with helping families in need.

She said the shelter is willing to share some information with community partners and will provide case management for non-clients. 

Gloria Barrino, executive director of Union County Crisis Assistance Ministry, said her organization was created due to a lack of communication between churches and people receiving resources from multiple churches. 

“We have been doing this for 27 years,” Barrino said.

Bragg said that for short-term or preventative help, Crisis Assistance is the best organization to refer people to, while for homelessness or long-term, the community shelter would be better. She also passed around the names of local food pantries in the county, asking people to add to the list if they knew of any that were absent.

“The resources in Union County are too limited for any duplication,” Barrino said. 

The church and other leaders hoped to work together to form a ten-year plan and a more comprehensive network to help the needy in Union County.