Houston – a model city in solving homelessness

June 12, 2014

Thao CostisTwo weeks ago the Coalition for the Homeless announced that the number of people who experience homelessness at any point-in-time in Houston is lower by 37% since 2011. This continuing decline in the number of people who are living on the streets or in emergency shelters is a testament to the changing approach within our community. What’s different? We are 1) engaging in strong private, local, and Federal partnerships and taking strategic actions to maximize all of our resources, 2) increasing evidence-based housing and services models like permanent supportive housing, and 3) focusing on outcomes. With these factors working together, solving homelessness is possible and within reach.

While still a work in process, Houston has become a model city in ending homelessness. The Mayor’s special assistant on homelessness, Mandy Chapman Semple, has been sharing the story nationally. In an expert brief she provided to a council of Cabinet and leaders from 19 Federal agencies who met to take action on Federal efforts to support and advance progress on ending homelessness in local communities, Chapman Semple notes that “Healthcare, mental health treatment, substance abuse, employment, education and economic growth are rarely optimized without adequate housing. However, responses across these sectors often do not recognize their inter-dependence. Houston’s success is the result of understanding the connections between these systems and creating a framework to define when systems can operate in parallel and when they must intersect and interweave.”

SEARCH is on the front lines leading client engagement, influencing local change efforts, and witnessing successes. The “60 minutes” news show shared on their website “before and after” photos of individuals who’d benefited from the 100,000 Homes campaign, a national effort to house 100,000 chronically homeless individuals throughout the country. Here’s an update on the couple from Houston, Deborah and Robert, former SEARCH clients:

They are doing great! Their health is good. They have only been going to their doctors, no ER visits. They are excited that they just signed another year lease. They do have two new additions to their family, cats named “Toast” and “Midnight”.

Robert shared, “In the beginning, when we first moved here, we weren’t sure that it was going to work out, if we would fit in in this apartment complex. But it turns out, we really like a lot of the people here and we know a lot of the neighbors. We still stay connected with some of our friends that are still on the street and try to help them out when we can. We were with these people for a long time. You know, at the end of this year’s lease we will have been inside almost as long as we were outside. We are happy.”

At the start of SEARCH’s work, we were happy with being able to change one life at a time. With hard AND smart work, SEARCH and our community partners are changing thousands of lives at a time.


Contact me at
tcostis@searchhomeless.org if you have feedback or a story to share.

 

Thank you,

Thao Costis

President/CEO

SEARCH Homeless Services

Ending street homelessness is within reach

April 16, 2014

Thao CostisMayor Annise Parker recently announced that the number of homeless persons found on any given day in Downtown Houston has reduced by half since 2012 from 1,060 to 529 in 2014.  The Coalition for the Homeless will soon release numbers that will reflect the entire county’s census of people who are homeless.  This initial peek of an area that has the highest concentration of people living on the street is a reflection of the significant progress we’ve made as a community over the past two years.  With the community’s goals to end chronic and veteran homelessness before 2016, public and private sector partners are working diligently to:

  1. Create 2500 units of permanent supportive housing for individuals with significant health needs.
  2. Develop a service delivery mechanism that’s targeted at more than helping people manage crises, but at truly ending homelessness.
  3. Develop a standardized assessment and housing placement system to prioritize the most vulnerable individuals and maximize resources.

Because of SEARCH’s experience with homelessness over the past 25 years and our focus on skilled case management that facilitate behavior change, we’ve been instrumental in helping individuals move from the streets, into jobs, and safe, stable housing.  We’ve also been a key partner and leader in the community’s efforts to implement the work outlined above.

With the Mayor’s political will, our community coming together to do business differently, and the expertise SEARCH is providing, ending street homelessness is within reach.  It’s an exciting time for SEARCH, our clients, and our city.  Thank you for being part of our important work.


Contact me at
tcostis@searchhomeless.org if you have feedback or a story to share.

 

Thank you,

Thao Costis

President/CEO

SEARCH Homeless Services

Take the challenge!

December 11, 2013

Thao CostisThe holiday season is a time to share our gifts of friendship and thoughtful treats. It’s also a great time to involve our children and help them understand the challenges that many face.

Can you make it on $1,000/month? I invite you to take the challenge through SPENT, an online game used to raise awareness of poverty and homelessness that was created by Urban Ministries of Durham. I must admit, I didn’t make it past day 10. Give it a try and let me know how well you do!


Contact me at
tcostis@searchhomeless.org if you have feedback or a story to share.

 

Happy Holidays!

Thao Costis

President/CEO

SEARCH Homeless Services

SEARCH is Another Way to Spell BLESS!

By Cindy Holloway

Being so grateful for all that God has given me, I have always had a heart for those Jesus identified in Matthew 25:33-40 as the least of these brothers: those in need of food, clothing, companionship, and compassion. Back in 2009, having just completed a board position with one of our local mission partners, I was looking for a new place to serve. Although I didn’t know it at the time, Gilly Brooks, who’d relocated to Houston from Perth, Australia, had felt “a heavenly nudge” to reach out to the homeless population in her new city. So when MDPC’s Outreach Ministries posted an article asking for volunteers to work with their long-time mission partner SEARCH Homeless Services, we both recognized it as the opportunity the Lord was providing for us.
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Grandparents & Grandchildren Change Our World

John & Sue Goott with daughter, Candice Frank & Granddaughter, Kayla Frank

John & Sue Goott with daughter, Candice Frank & Granddaughter, Kayla Frank

Grandparents, make a huge impact on the lives of grandchildren. Through hands on experiences, meaningful conversation or by just hanging out together, you pass on your own values and learn about those coveted by the next generation.  These interactions ensure your legacy lives on.  Continue reading

SEARCH’s Program Managers Provide Their Advice on Talking to Your Children About Homelessness #4

Eva Thibaudeau, LCSW -Engagement Services, Program Manager

The homelessness topic can be frightening to young children and intimidating for parents to explain. We see people on the streets, they may be dirty and many have serious mental illness. We struggle, ourselves, to understand what to do. Yet, we need to respond to our children’s questions about what they see, because we want to teach them that it is not alright to look past other human being’s suffering. Continue reading

SEARCH’s Program Managers Provide Their Advice on Talking to Your Children About Homelessness #3

Wendy Moore, LCSW -Stabilization Services, Program Manager

What do average Houston drivers keep in the backseat of their cars? Pens and change lodged in the seats, circulars you fully intent to read, a car seat, your jogging shoes and yoga mat, or a pet’s chew toy. While your car’s backseat can be the home for random and forgotten items, it can also be the keeper of hope.
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SEARCH’s Program Managers Provide Their Advice on Talking to Your Children About Homelessness #2

Heather Muller, Adult Learning Center and Employment Services, Program Manager

Homelessness is a difficult topic, one which most people will try to avoid when possible. However, when it comes to answering the questions that our children ask us, avoiding the topic can contribute to confusion and a lack of understanding around the issue of homelessness in our community. Being open and honest with children about things like; where people who are homeless sleep and what they eat, is important in building both understanding of the issue and greater empathy. While keeping the conversation age appropriate is important, the message your child gets is the key.
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