WILMINGTON — People experiencing homelessness and housing instability are currently being interviewed as part of a local initiative to lessen homelessness here.
This series of interviews, hopes homelessness consultant Tom Albanese, will yield a better understanding of the personal stories and experiences that brought the people to homelessness or housing instability. Furthermore, the information gathering includes hearing what they say they need in order to end their homelessness.
Albanese and others are hearing from people who are staying at the Clinton County Homeless Shelter, the Hope House, and the Sugartree Ministries shelter, as well as from folks who frequent Your Father’s Kitchen.
This needs assessment also includes visiting with residents of campgrounds in the county who may reside in campers and deteriorated mobile homes that technically are not habitable, Albanese told participants of the second meeting of the Clinton County Coalition on Homelessness.
The expectation is not that everyone who’s homeless in Clinton County will be spoken with, but the idea is to end up with as close to a representative sample as possible so the fact-finding involves hearing directly from the people experiencing the conditions of homelessness and housing instability, he said.
Hour-long focus groups also are being conducted, with the first focus group comprised of representatives from local churches.
In recapping the focus group discussion, Faith Lutheran Church Pastor Joel Richter said people contact his church frequently about help with different things, and he knows other churches are contacted, too.
Albanese said some of his takeaways from the faith focus group was that the local initiative meet people where they’re at, be non-judgmental, “and first and foremost seek to reduce harm.”
Also planned, with the date and place to be determined, is a broader community conversation about housing needs and housing instability.
Albanese intends to present the preliminary findings from the ongoing needs assessment at the July quarterly meeting of the coalition.
During the April 29 meeting of the Coalition on Homelessness, Northland Court Apartments owner Kathleen Madison spoke about her Section 8 community of some 100 units on the north side of Wilmington.
She said one thing the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires is a tenant selection plan, and in the past few years HUD has allowed a homeless preference to be part of the applicant selection process for living there.
Nowadays, most of the applicants for living at Northland Court Apartments are people experiencing homelessness, Madison said, adding she would say it’s 75 percent or more. She said this has never happened before while she’s been the owner.
According to Albanese, there is a vision of what it looks like when a community has a highly effective, optimized response to homelessness.
“We know everyone [the homeless] by name. That’s another way folks talk about it in our world. They’re not unknown to us, and we’re accountable to them,” he said.
Albanese is in charge of preparing a coordinated community plan to prevent and end homelessness. Proponents say a coordinated community plan process is a useful tool to get a better handle on the characteristics of a locale’s homelessness, and is a plan that helps everyone move forward in the same direction.
At the April meeting, Albanese said gathering information is important, “but we also don’t want to do that forever. Our intention is to move to action.”
The Clinton County Coalition on Homelessness’ Chair is Faith Lutheran Church Pastor Joel Richter, and the Vice Chair is Amie Penn, the Community Outreach Manager for Brightview.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.