Ending Family Homelessness Initiative
It is our belief that our Ending Family Homelessness Initiative is breaking new ground in creating new approaches to this issue in Sonoma County. Our working group of community-benefit organizations is committed to making the current episode of a family’s homelessness its final one, and for some, we are finding ways to prevent it altogether.
In Sonoma County, approximately half of the 2,200 officially-recorded homeless people are in families with dependent children, the great majority of which are headed by single mothers. Two-thirds of these families have been homeless for over a year. Four out of every ten homeless families are unsheltered.
The lack of affordable housing for very poor and disabled people is only the tip of the iceberg. Complex factors involving alcohol and drugs, mental health, domestic violence, unemployment and job retraining are significant factors. Perhaps the most important public misconception is that homeless people are the problem. In reality, it is homelessness that is the larger topic in our society.
While no single program can wipe out homelessness, we have embarked upon a five-year plan to rethink, recast and refocus on a significantly different approach to this chronic problem.
Our goal is to provide the leadership in creating a strongly-aligned, collaborative community of service providers in this undertaking. We will examine existing assumptions, deepen our understanding of root causes, clearly define measurable outcomes and increase individual donors’ support to address family homelessness in Sonoma County.
What Community Foundation Sonoma County is doing
1. Series of Convenings
Since 2008, we’ve hosted ten meetings of community-benefit organizations (representing six programs) that provide long-term support to homeless families. Guided by an independent facilitator, our goal is to examine existing assumptions, delve further into causal factors, encourage alignment with and focus on uniform outcomes and design a system that follows clients for five years. By building a new model for a countywide system of care, we can significantly change program impact and, at the same time, develop a generic template for convenings on any community issue.
Our community-benefit partners are:
- Catholic Charities
- Committee on the Shelterless (COTS) in Petaluma
- Community Action Partnership
- Women’s Recovery Services
- New funder/grantee relationships that emphasize equal collaboration
- A strongly-aligned team of service providers
- Identification of new major risk factors
- Jointly-developed strategies for interventions
- Quantifiable measures that will guide program work and goals
2. Quantifiable Measures
Working together, the partners developed goals for homeless families entering into transitional housing through one of their programs. Selected examples are:
- 95% of families link with a personal growth resource within six months to build resilience against homelessness
- 80% of parents will take an active role in their children’s education
- 95% of families will remain housed after one year
- 75% of families will move directly into permanent housing at 18-24 months
3. Five-Year Initiative
Our five-year initiative has these objectives:
- Build skills and resiliency of homeless families to prevent recurrence
- Gain deeper understanding of the multi-generational nature of chronic poverty and homelessness
- Develop solutions to break this cycle
- Increase effectiveness of homeless programs
- Identify major gaps in homeless family services
- Develop responses to fill these gaps
- Implement effective prevention and early intervention strategies
- Develop an advocacy agenda for policy changes to systems that impede homeless solutions
4. Initiative Funding Goals
Our goal is to raise $200,000 annually to fund the Ending Family Homelessness Initiative and related grants. For more information, contact J Mullineaux, Vice President for Development at 707.303.9620.
All of our community-benefit partners provide essential services, including long-term support programs to families who are homeless. Visit their websites below to learn more and get involved.
Contact Robert Judd, Vice President for Programs, at 707.303.9615.
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