Local Coalition Hosts Symposium on Homelessness in San Angelo
Frank talk about helping the homeless was the order of the day as the the Concho Valley Homeless Planning Coalition held a symposium at PaulAnn Baptist Church on Wednesday entitled “Breaking The Cycle of Homelessness.”
The one-day event featured several members of the management team from an innovative San Antonio project called Haven for Hope, which opened in 2010 and has radically changed the lives of hundreds of homeless people through their comprehensive programs.
“The poor, we will always have with us,” Rev. Floyd Crider, who chairs the coalition board said. “But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to minister to them.”
Crider talked about how the symposium came together.
“Frankly, the board was kind of floundering,” he said. “I came on a few months ago, and they made me president,” he said laughing. “Or--as we would say in the Army--I got volun-told.
“Anyway, we wanted to try doing more, so we searched the country looking for best practices...and our search ultimately led us to Haven for Hope in San Antonio.
“Several of us went down there to visit, and they knocked our socks off,” he explained. “They’re doing great things.”
Crider said they were so impressed by what they witnessed in San Antonio, they decided it was important for people in San Angelo to hear how Haven for Hope succeeds in their efforts, which have reduced the homeless population in downtown San Antonio by 84 percent.
During the morning session, the Haven for Hope team took turns talking about their areas of expertise, and shared what they have done to implement a wide range of services for the homeless that include education, mental health care, substance-abuse rehabilitation & counseling, residential & legal services, kennel facilities, ID recovery, childcare, youth and family activities, mail service, food services, community events, physical rehabilitation, library, donation distributions and more.
According to information from the group, more than 85 organizations have partnered with Haven for Hope since 2010, and their efforts have helped more than 1,835 people transition from the campus and moved into permanent housing.
The team talked about working closely with local government and law enforcement officials to help save Bexar County more than $50 million in documented avoidance costs by keeping people out of jails and hospitals.
After the informative morning session, a tasty box lunch prepared by Roosters Chicken n Fixins was served, and the symposium continued with a panel discussion to look at what steps should be taken next to help the local homeless population.
Attendees asked questions about how health care, liability, preventing duplication of efforts and how behavioral problems are handled. The panel offered insightful answers from thier experiences.
Dr. Mark Bethune, Executive Director of the Concho Valley Community Action Agency, talked about providing services to help prevent people who are in dire straits from becoming homeless in the first place, and later mentioned possible future problems if the price of oil crashes, and oil companies start laying off workers.
Ron Landers with Christians in Action said he was working to compile a list of every charity group working in San Angelo, and told the crowd that he would welcome any help they could give him to make sure the list is up to date.
Phillip Givens, with Disability Connections, said he wants to move forward with the ideas discussed during the day.
“I believe the ones who are here today are the ones who are going to support the vision,” he said. “I’ve found out that, in leadership, that we always wind up waiting for everybody to show up, before we make the decision on what to do.
“The scriptures say that ‘many are called, but few are chosen’ and I believe that the ones in this room today are the ones that God has chosen to be here today, to get this vision started...and it has to start with us, not the whole city.”
Givens urged those in attendance to seize the moment, and carry the vision discussed during the symposium forward into reality.
“I’m a positive thinker,” he said. “All I need to say is that those of you who want see this happen—let’s make it happen, and to those that don’t want it to happen—let ‘em step back and watch.”
Haven for Hope Vice President of Transformational Services Evita Morin suggested a practical approach would be for the coalition to host an event for the homeless of San Angleo.
“Just bring them in and feed them,” she said. “Then you can ask them what they need.”
One idea that was talked about several times was the Homeless Information Management System (HIMS), a computer-based network that helps different groups and agencies keep up with what assistance and services are rendered to homeless people.
Several attendees familiar with the with the system said it saved significant time and money in the long run by keeping everyone involved up to date, reducing paperwork and speeding up the referral process.
CVHPC past-president, and current board member, Rev. Scott Heiser sat on the panel and said at any-given time, there are usually about 400 homeless people in San Angelo.
He encouraged everyone in attendance to join the coalition and voiced his support for increasing the number of meetings they hold.
“The coalition meets quarterly,” he told the group. “Our next meeting is in February, and that will be about three months too late.
“Let’s seriously start working on putting together some kind of a plan that we will be able to use throughout the year to start implementing some of the evidence-based best practices that we have seen and heard about today here in San Angelo.
“Having been fighting this battle for the last four-and-a-half years, I think we are very close to getting all of the wonderful agencies in San Angelo--who are doing good work—working toward the same goal, as a group.”
He said that while there was much to be learned from Haven for Hope, he did not think a centralized-campus for homeless people in San Angelo was the way to go.
“I’m not sure if that is what is needed here,” he explained. “The intention of the Homeless Planning Coalition is to act as a focal point for collaboration, and if we can do that—if we can get all of these different folks involved in the coalition—and start having monthly meetings and talking about how we can work together in this city, we can make a big difference.
“I’m glad they talked about the HIMS, which is a state database...if we can get everybody using that—or a similar program—we can work together more effectively.”
To learn more about Haven for Hope, follow this link.
To learn more about the Concho Valley Homeless Planning Coalition, follow this link.