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DHS News April 2014     


New Program Aims to Improve Homeless Supports

A new homeless services and supports unit in the Department of Human Services (DHS) is improving connections between people who are homeless and the myriad services they might need to be self sufficient. Joe Elliott, Manager of Specialized Integrated Services and Supports, is overseeing the program, which began in earnest in January. Joe works in the Office of Community Relations and had been director of the Allegheny Link to Aging and Disability Services.

The homeless supports unit was inspired by the Call for Concepts submitted for the 2013-14 Human Services Block Grant. “There had been a number of concept papers addressing services for families who are homeless to not just look at the adults but also the children,” Joe said. “So it was decided to create a dedicated unit that would be assigned to homeless shelters to support the existing case management done by the shelter provider agencies.”

Three homeless supports coordinators have recently been added to Womanspace East and Salvation Army’s Family Caring Center to provide additional support and continuity to help improve outcomes for families, not because of any concerns with the quality of work done by the agencies.  The three coordinators are Kristen Armstrong, Barbara Britt and Sandy Duceour. “They work with the existing case managers and also have that tie back to the Department of Human Services,” Joe said.

Importantly, the coordinators can track families once they move out of shelters, and they are assisting in ensuring that children are properly evaluated and linked to kindergarten readiness programs such as Head Start and the Alliance for Infants and Toddlers. “Families have been eager to work with the coordinators,” Joe said.

DHS also hired Peter Harvey, a veteran of nonprofits that include the Fair Housing Partnership, to work with providers to discover where they and DHS can strengthen services to better support families and others who may be experiencing a housing crisis.

Joe has been working with Chuck Keenan, Administrator of the Bureau of Homeless Services, and providers in moving forward with the supports.





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