“What should I do when I see someone who appears to be homeless?” I am often asked this question when I speak with groups in the community about the work we do at Housing Transitions. If my audience is a group of children, I suggest they tell a trusted adult and encourage them to call Housing Transitions. If it’s an adult group, I explain that often we know about the people who are unsheltered on our streets. Even though there is a good chance there is an agency (or two, or more) that is working with them, I encourage community members to call, too. There is a chance we may not know about them, plus, you never know when someone is ready to make a change and work with the programs we have to offer, or if we have a new service that will work for them.
Recently, we again offered housing to an individual who has lived unsheltered, for years, and were surprised and thrilled when he accepted. He is now safe and warm in his own apartment. This was made possible due to a new service that we are able to offer due to a grant awarded through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Nittany House, as we call it, is a permanent supportive housing project and started Sept. 1. It allows us to provide apartments for the chronically homeless with a documented disability. Our caseworkers identified a number of individuals who would benefit from this program and we have been helping them move into their new places this fall. We have appreciated the help of other local programs like Out-of-the-Cold Centre County, Hearts for the Homeless and Centre Peace who have helped us coordinate efforts to provide a place to call home for these clients.
The project follows the “housing first” model, which advocates for low barrier entry to housing, followed by case management and support with the hopes that clients will become more independent and stable in their lives. We are also offering another new service that employs the housing first model. This rapid rehousing project from HUD allows for rental assistance for individuals and families who are homeless. The program tailors the amount of funds and time allowed for assistance depending on the current resources of each family.
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We are excited to add these two new programs to our continuum of services to assist those in a housing crisis. Our Centre House shelter, which is predominantly privately funded and community supported, is the only one for individuals and families in Centre County. It still follows the “housing ready” model for the residents staying in shelter. Clients work hard with our case managers to set goals and meet them so they are ready to maintain housing when they leave our shelter.
Morgan Wasikonis is the executive director of Housing Transitions, which is a Centre County United Way Partner Agency.