Home Again:
 Preventing Homelessness 
in Summit County Part One – 2010-08-13

By: Katie Sobiech

Home Again, which got its start in December of 2009, helps the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless by offering homeless prevention and rapid re-housing options.

For those who are struggling and meet the specific requirements set in place by the program, local agencies will provide help including: Housing search and placement, a security deposit, rent, utility deposits and payments, legal assistance, case management and more. All of these things are included in their 6 month program targeted towards getting individuals and families back on their feet.

Akron received approximately 3.3 million dollars from the state and city of Akron to fund this venture.

“This recovery act money was allocated to the states in a ‘formula’ based on each population,’ Sue Pierson, Director of Info Line said, “The city of Akron put it out in a competitive process to the community with fairly strict guidelines about how the program was to be run and then we all came together and created our own process.”

Their decision was that a collaborative approach was the best route to take. Info Line, The Salvation Army, H.M. Life Opportunity Services, Summit County Children’s Services, Equal Housing Opportunity, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are all working together to make things happen.

Six hundred and forty-two individuals and two hundred sixty-two families have been served since the program started.

The New Homeless

Since the economic crisis, there has been a new epidemic: the new homeless. Due to vast amounts of individuals winding up homeless, or on the verge of homelessness due to the downfall of the economy, many social service agencies have been seeing a group of people that might have never approached them in the past.

These are people dealing with losing jobs due to layoffs who are unable to pay their rent strictly because of shaky economic times. Or, maybe they’ve never missed a rent payment but because their landlord was foreclosed on they wound up getting an eviction notice and had to start all over again.

“Because of the economy these people are struggling. They don’t know the system and are at risk of losing their housing,” Pierson explained.

Therefore, the program was created specifically for this group of unique individuals rather than those who have traditionally sought help through social service funding in the past.

“The homeless prevention component diverts folks from actually entering the system. You get to them before they get into the shelters,” Pierson said.

Collaborations

The program contains two parts; Rapid Re-Housing and Homeless Prevention.

Info Line, Inc. does intake, which they’ve been doing well for years, having connected with many agencies in the community already.

“We’re sitting on all of this data here at Info Line and can actually look at where folks are accessing or requesting information on social services,” Fred Berry, Administrator for the Homeless Management Information System said, “As the administrator, I can go in and see where the most prevalent zip codes in our community are at and where folks are coming from that are entering the system.”

HM Life Opportunity Services fits in perfectly with the program, as they’ve been servicing individuals through their TAG program for years, and dealing with rapid re-housing.

“They were in the business of knowing where there were apartments or places for rent, knowing what was involved in doing those visits to make sure that it was viable and not a bad place for people to be. They know the procedures for checking and doing all of the verification for people coming in,” Pierson said.

“They had a very good track record for being able to take people who were coming out of transitional housing, who were in an emergency shelter, and getting them back on track again fast and into housing,” she continued.

As for the homeless prevention, the Salvation Army takes care of that.

“They have a huge program for homeless prevention,” Pierson shared.

The Salvation Army helps pay rent and utilities to keep people from losing their apartments.

Not a Hand Out

One thing that that they want to make clear is that this isn’t a hand-out.

“We work with families who want to work for themselves. We don’t just give this money away. We want to provide the money but they have their part, too. This isn’t for people that don’t have jobs or money. It’s for people who can’t come up with that big, initial sum of money to get in,” Melissa Massey-Flinn, Program Director of H.M. Life Opportunity Services said.

The client’s participation in their case management component and financial literacy classes are mandatory.

“It’s very important,” Massey-Flinn said, “We’re providing the skills training to help them become self-sufficient.”

Stay tuned next week for Part Two

For more information on Home Again please call 330.615.0566 or visit http://www.infolineinc.org

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