Press Release: United Way of Forsyth County’s Housing Matters Team Held a Housing Connections Day on Thursday July 11, 2019 at the Forsyth County Public Library

WINSTON-SALEM, NC —For immediate Release- July 16, 2019 –  United Way of Forsyth County’s Housing Matters team held a Housing Connections Day on Thursday July 11, 2019 at the Forsyth County Public Library. As a part of United Way’s Housing Matters initiative, this event was created to connect clients who are enrolled in housing programs with affordable housing units available in the community.

Almost 80 people participated in the event; over 50 people took tours of available properties and over 25 applications for units were received. Some of the units were pre-inspected and all were with properties that were willing to accept rapid re-housing and/or Permanent Supportive Housing tenants.

Andrea Kurtz noted, “We were very excited to speed up the process of getting the applications completed, and do real time check requests for the application fees and be able to hand deliver the checks to the property managers all within the same day.  We wouldn’t have been able to complete this major undertaking without the support of all of the homeless service providers within the Winston Salem Continuum of Care “.

Food and beverages were provided by Krispy Kreme, Intown Donutz , Starbuck and Providence Kitchen.

Lou Baldwin of Baldwin Properties spoke about what makes a great landlord / tenant relationship. Kurtz said, “Lou Baldwin and Baldwin Properties have been one of our most loyal supporters and we can’t thank them enough for their participation in this event and their support of the HEARRT project.”

United Way of Forsyth County President and CEO Cindy Gordineer notes, “This was a truly exciting and pivotal event for our community and for those individuals seeking housing. The collaboration built on the strength of each of our partners and local businesses to work together for the common good of Forsyth County and its residents.”

For more information about the United Way, visit www.forsythunitedway.org

    

l-r Attendees at event, Andrea Kurtz speaks to the crowd, Lou Baldwin of Baldwin Properties

Press Release: Housing, Emergency Assistance, Rapid Response Team (HEARRT) Is Formed to Address Chronic Homelessness

Housing, Emergency Assistance, Rapid Response Team (HEARRT) Is Formed

City with Dwellings, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Empowerment Project and the United Way’s Housing Matter’s Initiative have joined forces to create the Housing, Emergency Assistance, Rapid Response Team aka HEARRT Team. This collaboration builds on the strength of each partner and is focused on ending the cycle of chronic homelessness in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County for people who have been living on the streets.

The HEARRT approach combines housing with consistent, supportive services and resources as an immediate intervention for highly vulnerable and chronically homeless persons in our community.  To qualify for HEARRT individuals must be identified through street outreach and referred by the Community Intake Center. The Community Intake Center is a project of the WSFC Continuum of Care which helps prioritize access to supportive housing services to the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness.

The HEARRT team has four apartments, conveniently located so residents have access to grocery stores, medical care and other services.  The first resident moved in June 28th.  City with Dwellings employs a peer support specialist who will live on-site to provide 24-hour assistance to people living in the HEARRT units.  They will also partner with the case managers from the Empowerment Project who provide intensive case management to support residents as they work towards stability in both their housing and health.  The Team will connect residents to needed services such as mental and physical health care, transportation to food pantries and clothing closets, as well as opportunities for engagement in the community.

Andrea Kurtz, Senior Director, Housing Strategies for United Way of Forsyth County notes, “As we continue our work to eradicate chronic homelessness in our community, this initiative is a tremendous milestone. This collaboration allows for each partner to bring to the table their strengths and we can optimize the capacity of each partner to end the cycle of chronic homelessness”.

United Way Forsyth County President and CEO, Cindy Gordineer said, “This is truly an exciting opportunity for our entire community and it opens the door for everyone working to end chronic homelessness to boost organizational efficiency, increase organizational effectiveness, and drive broader social and systems changes.”

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United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.

More information about the partners:

City with Dwellings’ Community First approach is built on a model of supportive community. Its work is highly participatory and consistent with restorative practices. Research has shown that being part of a community positively impacts an individual’s path to self-determination, independence, and empowerment. City with Dwellings believes it is more effective to work with and alongside individuals rather than doing things for them. These restorative practices strengthen relations between individuals as well as social connections within communities. Developing relationships of trust and engaging the wider community in our work enables City with Dwellings to effectively facilitate a coordinated community response to help house individuals and reduce recidivism back into homelessness.   For more information about City with Dwellings: Contact Tracy Mohr 336-577-8648, tracysmohr@gmail.com

The Empowerment Project (TEP) assists adults wishing to exit homelessness by helping them access mental health and/or substance abuse services, primary health care, and other resources, via a community-based model of managedcare that supports naturalinteraction among clients, local providers andstakeholders, to identify and provide for that population’s unmet needs. Housed at the Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Dept. of Psychiatry, but working closely with the FaithHealth Division and Public Health Sciences, the very small staff of TEP have provided outreach services to over 1,500 persons and case management to approximately 1000 persons of record since 2011.   TEP behavioral specialist staff are deeply respected in this community, by both other provider and agency stakeholders and consumers alike. They serve a niche in the community that few other groups do (e.g., visit outdoor sites where homeless live, provide rides to hearings or shelters) and work diligently to support homeless persons in a wrap-around recovery and strengths model. Providing both outreach and case management as part of the HEARRT team, TEP’s behavioral specialists also will provide client assistance in terms of completion of applications for various programs and resources (e.g., employment or disability), client identification, bus passes, birth certificates and other services. For more information about  The Empowerment Project contact Teresa Cutts: tcutts@wakehealth.edu

greeNest provides household furnishings to individuals and families transitioning to sustainable housing. Volunteers sort, clean and organize furniture and household goods that have been donated by the community and tastefully stage a “showroom” from which participants make selections. Caseworkers from over 60 partnering agencies connect individuals and families in need. Participants, accompanied by their caseworkers, choose donated items that best suit their needs and preferences, respecting them to make their own choices.  Participants then become “owners,” not merely “recipients.”     For more information on greeNest contact: Julia Toone: juliabtone@gmail.com

The United Way’s Housing Matter’s initiative provides support to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Continuum of Care in implementing its vision to, “end chronic homelessness and improve the system of care for all people experiencing a housing crisis.”  As a part of this work the Housing Matter’s team leads the implementation of the CoC’s Community Intake Center, which is a process by which people experiencing homelessness are matched to housing programs based on their needs and vulnerability.   For more information on United Way’s Housing Matters work contact: Andrea Kurtz, 336-577-6826, andrea.kurtz@uwforsyth.org

Progress to Zero Update

Today there are still the same 18 folks on the by name list, and 17 folks on the not-by-name list. 13 people on the BNL are matched into permanent supportive housing, two of whom are on the brink of signing a lease! The average length of time in the PSH program without being housed is 63 days.
One common refrain, as we work with case managers and other people working to help folks get housed is there is not enough housing. In response, the housing team at United Way is organizing a Housing Connections event scheduled for July 11—particularly for folks in a supportive housing program who are still looking for units. As details are firmed up, we will let you know.
If you are interested in helping with this event, please let me know.
Andrea Kurtz

Press Release: United Way of Forsyth County Will Attend Hill Day and Advocate for Increasing the EITC

WINSTON-SALEM, NC — United Way of Forsyth County Will Attend Hill Day and Advocate for Increasing the EITC

On June 13th, over 60 United Way advocates will storm Capitol Hill to advocate for key tax priorities including expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for workers not raising kids at home and young people ages 21 to 24. While the EITC is one of the most effective tools we have to help working families keep their heads above water, it currently excludes millions of workers.

The Tax Policy Forum and Hill Day is an opportunity for United Ways from across the country to travel to United Way Worldwide and dive deep into the network’s top tax policy priorities: the Charitable Deduction, Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

This event will feature speakers and subject matter experts about each of these leading policy issues, and participants will have the opportunity to put their knowledge into action through application workshops and the Hill Day. During the Hill Day event on June 13, participants will meet with their Members of Congress to advocate for the network policy priorities.

United Way of Forsyth County Chief Impact Officer, Debbie Wilson will be visiting the offices of Representative Virginia Fox, Senator Burr and Senator Tillis. Wilson notes, “ We are excited to advocate for increasing the EITC.  As the United Way of Forsyth County continues to fight poverty in our community, we know that the EITC is very important. More than 5 million American workers are taxed into poverty, largely because they are excluded from the pro-work, anti-poverty impacts of the EITC. We’re encouraging supporters to join in advocating for the EITC by visiting:  https://www.unitedway.org/get-involved/take-action/stand-up-for-working-americans “.

For more information about the United Way, visit www.forsythunitedway.org

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United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.

Progress to Zero Update

Last week was the State Homeless Conference in Raleigh.  Forsyth County had a strong showing of advocates at the conference, who have all returned refreshed and energized with new ideas and focus.  One strain of conversation that I have heard much about is on Housing Focused Shelter.  
The distillation of the concept is that from the first contact with folks entering the shelter the conversation, the focus should be on connecting to housing, there is a lot to unpack from these sessions which we will be doing as a CoC over the next several months.  What resonated for me in hearing folks talk about the housing focused shelter is that for most of the folks who touch homeless services, shelter is the only or the primary service they access.  If we want to end homelessness, then we must look at how our shelters policies and practices impact the flow of folks in and out of the homeless system.
We now have 19 folks on us by-name list.  The new folks to the list are folks who have either aged into chronicity because they have been waiting so long for a supportive housing placement, or were folks known to us returning from places such as hospitalizations or incarcerations.   This growth in our list is coming not from new people coming to our community, but rather folks we as a system have been interacting with for many months, and in some cases years.  
We have been focused for a long time on the handful of supportive housing resources, both permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing.   We are working with case managers from all of these programs on finding new housing opportunities, on reducing the length of time from program entry to housing move-in and reducing length of stay in programs.  These case managers are working hard at housing folks and at continuous improvement. Their hard work has made good progress not just for their clients, but for our homeless services system.  
But to end chronic homelessness we have to not just keep working on improving our supportive housing muscles, but we also need to look at the front end of our system including both shelter and street outreach.   We need to develop, as a CoC, the muscles to help people develop and strengthen their connections to their natural support networks, mainstream resources (meaning anything not specifically for homeless people) and self-sufficiency skills  so that there are other doors out of homelessness then the few supportive housing slots available.
Homeless service providers are not in this work alone, and while we are the drivers of the work to end chronic homelessness, we are not the only organizations responsible for improving health, housing and wellness outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.  As I mentioned above, significant connections exist between homelessness, incarceration, hospitalizations, and mental health & substance abuse treatment services.     In connecting with some of these systems we have made great progress over the last 10 years, but if the in-flow to our chronically homeless by name list is any indication, we still have a long way to go to make sure that we are creating the systems and relationships across our county that support our goal of ending chronic homelessness.
Peace!
Andrea
Andrea S. Kurtz

Progress to Zero Update

It is the beginning of May.  As of today we still have 13 folks on our By-name list and 17 on the not By Name list.  This number hasn’t changed much over the last 5 months.  Of the 13 people on the BNL,  9 of them are in a supportive housing program.  These nine folks have been matched to a PSH program for an average of 114 days and not housed.  The longest folks have been matched to PSH is for 114 days.  The shortest match is 35 days.

This week we have also been confronted with a woman, who is both chronically homeless and pregnant who has been rejected for service by every PSH program and no realistic plan has been developed for her.

If we are going to end chronic homelessness, we have to do better by these folks.  What changes are necessary in order to speed up the time it takes for people matched in PSH to get housed?  What changes do we need to make to ensure that no one who is matched to PSH is rejected by every provider without a realistic housing solution?

These are questions we all must help find the answers or rather then making progress towards ending chronic homelessness, we will again see these numbers rise.

Andrea S. Kurtz

Progress to Zero Update

From: Andrea Kurtz , Senior Director, Housing Strategies, United Way of Forsyth County
In my call with our BFZ coach this week, Eddie asked me, what would help create the sense of urgency in our CoC that would propel us to meet our goal of ending Chronic Homelessness. So this week, I’m inviting the team to email me what they think will help create the urgency we need as a CoC to improve our system of care to help the 13 folks on our By Name List (BNL) and 17 folks on our not by-name list (nBNL) get housed (Note: the BNL are people who have consented to some service that connects them to our CoC, the nBNL are folks who outreach services have identified as homeless but have not consented to services connected to the CoC)and what changes do we need to make to ensure that people who are not chronically homeless don’t age into chronic status.
As we reflect on my question this week, think how far we have come. And we have come very far. In 2005, we estimated there were over 200 chronically homeless folks in our community. We were not sophisticated enough to even accurately count them all. Now, we know them all, by name. We have the tools to assess their vulnerabilities and goals. We have the systems to target supportive housing resources to the most vulnerable based on community determined priorities. We have data on programs’ success in placing people in permanent housing, on recidivism from these programs, on the flow of people in and out shelter, and many other markers of system function. You can see in our metrics that shifts have happened.
I believe we have the skills and the resources to make the final shift: from being a system that manages homeless people to being a system that helps people resolve their housing crisis; from being a system that defines people by their housing status, to being one that helps them build a better life based on their gifts, skills, and talents.
There will always be reasons that people lose their housing whether from natural disasters or accidents, fires, family break-up, sudden or chronic illness or significant life changes. I believe Winston-Salem, and specifically the staff and programs in our CoC have the talent and resources to help people manage through these crises without keeping them homeless so long that it becomes an indelible part of their identity. I also believe, we are close to the day that we are fully living into our vision of being a crisis response system, not a homeless management system.

Progress to Zero – Update 1

As many of you know, in 2005 our community committed to ending chronic homelessness.  This milestone is only a part of the larger vision our Continuum of Care (COC) has for homeless services to become a housing crisis response system that helps people facing a housing crisis stabilize their housing.   The proof point of ending chronic homelessness is only a stepping stone on this path.  One step we are imminently close to taking! When we made the commitment as a community to end chronic homelessness, there were over 200 folks in our community who were chronically homeless.    Today we have only 12!

 

We have come a long way as a community of practice serving people experiencing homelessness.  The changes we have made over the last 14 years to our system have been monumental…including the development of rapid re-housing, coordinated assessment, governance re-design,  improved partnerships with HAWS, the VA, DSS, WFUBMC, better data collection and improved use of data in decision making.  We have also strengthened our culture of partnership and collaboration including shelter/medical care partnerships at both Bethesda Center and Samaritan Ministries, the HAWS collaborative between Bethesda Center and HAWS, the sophisticated partnership between Cities with Dwellings and local faith communities to manage our winter over-flow and to support the development of supportive community as people transition into permanent housing.

 

This week, 8 of us attended the Built for Zero convening in Atlanta where we received training, guidance and support for innovative ways to better support you as we continue our progress towards Zero.  As we have over the past several years since joining BFZ, we will continue to share this knowledge through Action Camps, the operating cabinet, and other work groups and partnerships across our CoC.  A key concept of this work is continuous improvement.  A key concept of continuous improvement is to “test” or try something on a small scale before bringing a change to full scale, as a way to learn what works or doesn’t work to improve our ability to end homelessness. Through the methodology of Continuous Quality Improvement we have made changes to how we support people getting their disability verification, documenting their length of time homelessness, orientations, improved housing search and placement and many other areas of our system.

 

In January at our CoC retreat, we committed to ending chronic homelessness by June 30! When we hit this milestone, it will be because of  hard work,  dedication, and  compassion for serving our homeless neighbors.

I am committing in these last three months to this goal to sending out a weekly update celebrating the work we are doing as a CoC to end homelessness— all homelessness.

 

 

Andrea S. Kurtz

 

Progress to Zero – Continuum of Care Update – by Andrea Kurtz, JD Senior Director, Housing Strategies

At the root of all the work we do across the CoC is the goal of helping people who are homeless find a place to call home: one individual, one family at a time. As we have worked to align our programs and services across the CoC to this singular goal of housing the homeless we have gathered ample data and success stories demonstrating, that with the right supports anyone can be successful in permanent housing. This simple truth, that having a home, a place to set roots, to be who you is powerful. But as we inch closer to our goal of ending chronic homelessness, the refrain we hear most often is, there is not enough housing. The pressures on our rental housing market are so great, that some landlords are asking tenants to have 4x the monthly rent in income before they will consider renting to them; even if they come with a housing voucher covering the cost of rent.
Housing that is affordable, that meets fair market rent (FMR), is increasingly further out from the center of our community, compounding already challenging transportation issues. How are we to end chronic homelessness in this type of a housing market? The answer will be as it has always been, one individual, one family at a time.
One strategy for improving housing placement rates that has been discussed off and on in our community is shared housing. As with all strategies, there are pros and cons, and while it may not work for some, it may work for others. As no-one in our system has previously used this strategy regularly we are devoting part of the upcoming Action Camp on April 11th to exploring “Shared Housing.”
Our landlord engagement team is excited to welcome Karen Britton, our new Landlord Engagement Specialist with the Forsyth Rapid Re-Housing Collaborative. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience as a real estate professional and a deep passion for helping people find housing. She and Kristle will continue to build relationships with landlords and property managers across Forsyth County and to identify vacant units. They will be working very intensely over the next few months with the support of our coach from Built for Zero to try new strategies to encourage landlords to make units available to people transitioning out of homelessness.
Status update on the progress to Zero:
  • There are 13 chronically homeless folks on the By-name List.
  • 2 Chronically Homeless folks were housed this week! WOOHOO!
  • 10 folks from the BNL were matched to a supportive housing program.
Another key event this week, is the closing of the winter overflow shelters. 287 people were provided shelter this winter by City with Dwellings. Of those folks, 48 are now known to be permanently housed! They were housing using a combination of diversion, self-resolution, and a few were in supportive housing programs. 12 folks were diverted at the shelter door back to friends/family and 37 folks came to the shelter, didn’t stay at overflow, and never showed up in any other shelter this winter.

They left coats on trees and poles around Winston-Salem for people in need. Then they marveled at the kindness of others.

To Lois Koufman, the answer to a question that could have been answered in several ways on different levels was simple.

What possessed you to spend your afternoons buying up coats in Goodwill stores to hang in trees for homeless residents of town?

“Because it was cold outside,” she said.

Read more here