By: Katie Sobiech
The Continuum of Care (CoC) is a broad collaborative effort of homeless service providers, supportive service providers, hospitals, The University of Akron, banks and foundations. It stretches beyond Akron and across the nation, numbering 6-700 groups, sharing one goal: to break the cycle of homelessness.
To accomplish this goal the CoC pulls in funding from the U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to support local homeless providers that work together to further enhance a system that provides emergency, transitional, and permanent shelter to homeless individuals. In 2008 they brought in $3,563,121.00 which was shared among 10 agencies in the area.
The CoC also sponsors annual short term projects such as Project Homeless Connect, which is a large collaborative effort of agencies that come together one day a year to bring awareness of their existence in Akron to the homeless community. The Coc also sponsors Point in Time Count, which consists of groups all across Ohio going out on one night of the year to count the homeless population.
The City of Akron is considered the lead agency for the CoC.
“For the past 8 years the aim has been to end chronic homelessness. We want to target the individuals that are handicapped, have mental health or substance abuse issues and have been on the streets,” Helen Tomic, Akron City Planner, said, continuing, “The aim is to get these individuals stabilized and into some type of housing.”
The CoC not only gets the applications to HUD for funding, but works with the agencies and committees to determine future goals and action steps.
“We look at the whole process of addressing the needs of the homeless, from the beginning through the very end, so we try to include all of those entities in the Continuum of Care,” Tomic said.
“According to the way you structure the CoC, it is a group of agencies in your community that provide services to the homeless,” Sue Pierson, Chair of CoC Akron and Director of InfoLine said.
Meetings convene at multiple locations including the Haven of Rest, ACCESS, The Chapel, and Info Line, Inc. to name a few. Agencies that the CoC supports or have supported include H.M. Life Opportunity Services, Legacy III, Inc., ACCESS, and Summit County Children Services.
“The beauty of this entire process is the fact that it gives us a formal way to work with the agencies, stay in touch with each other and get to know each other. It really pulls us all together to make sure that we’re doing a better job to provide services homeless,” Pierson said.
“We also invite speakers from the community to talk about what their agencies are doing, look at trends in the country and see what we can implement locally,” Tomic added.
Plans for ending homelessness stretch far beyond Akron.
“The Bush administration was looking at a ten year plan to end chronic homelessness,” Tomic said.
That was what spurred on the local initiative.
“The starting point is developing affordable housing where homeless individuals can stay,” she added.
The Obama Administration has other plans.
“The new trends with the Obama Administration are looking at homeless prevention, and rapid re-housing is trying to bypass the homeless system completely,” Tomic said, “If folks that are on the verge of becoming homeless have a safety net and services in place it can prevent them from even entering the homeless system.”
The CoC has three main plans for the homeless in Akron. One – getting them in apartments, two – moving them if they are being evicted, or three – providing them with short term rental assistance and supportive services.
“Then hopefully within six months they can get stabilized and move forward,” Tomic said.
To read Part Two click on the link.