Homeless Liaison Eyes Life Hub for a long-term solution | News, Sports, Jobs
picture by: Photo by Eric Ayres
WHEELING – A coordinated effort is underway to bring together a range of local agencies and advocacy groups to work to break the cycle of homelessness in the city of Wheeling.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, the city’s homeless liaison, Melissa Adams, updated city leaders on the progress of her efforts to reduce the number of homeless people living in Wheeling.
The game plan for achieving this goal may likely involve a request for what would become a multi-million dollar investment in a Life Hub – a facility that consolidates resources and streamlines services in a centralized location.
Last year, council members voted split on the proposal to create the homeless liaison position in the city.
As a compromise, the position was designed to be in place for a period of three years with an option for renewal of the position to be determined by the next council regime.
“Wheeling is not a city where we lack funding to address homelessness, nor do we lack organizations dedicated to addressing it,” Mayor Glenn Elliott said. “What we felt was that not all efforts and funds were being used in the most coordinated way.”
After the position was created, Adams was selected from a pool of applicants to fill the position, which she started on November 1. Since then, she has been working with local agencies and developing a plan to truly meet the needs of the collective effort. getting people off the streets and into productive roles in the community — a complex but doable challenge, Adams noted.
“I’ve found that we have some fantastic agencies here that are doing amazing work,” Adams said. “Each agency that works with the homeless population works with them individually in different ways.”
Individual social service agencies provide different types of assistance for different people. Some offer services specifically for veterans, while others specialize in helping youth or women, men, victims of domestic violence, or other specific groups. Their mission statements and funding parameters specifically dictate who they can serve, with some unable to help people without identification, criminal histories or other barriers.
“One of the things I’ve seen consistently when I talk to these individual agencies is something that’s missing, and that’s low-barrier shelter,” Adams told city officials Tuesday. “A Life Hub is different from just having a specific low barrier shelter. This would provide comprehensive services where each individual agency maintains its separate identity, but at the same time is housed in one location with small satellite offices.
Adams said a Life Hub would be a public-private, non-profit, collaborative effort that would be located in the city of Wheeling. It would focus on adults, pets and homeless people who need shelter, coordinated social services, permanent housing and employment education, as well as health care. mental and physical in one place.
A plan continues to be developed for the creation of a Wheelign Life Hub, providing a low barrier approach for people who end up falling through the cracks because they may seek help from a less oriented agency towards their help, but more oriented towards helping people facing different situations. A plethora of services open to everyone in the homeless community would be offered in a centralized location.
“There are many such models all over the country,” Adams said. “One in particular is gearing up to open in Pittsburgh, and I’m amazed at how quickly these living centers are changing the homeless populations in their areas.”
A low barrier doesn’t mean it’s a place without rules or a well-thought-out, coordinated plan, Adams noted. The Hub would be supported by a team of agency representatives, consultants and an advisory board to help develop and implement a plan.
“The funding that would be needed for this is substantial, but it’s needed,” Adams said. “It would probably be a $20 million construction program. But with that, we would be working with different foundations, with the federal government, the state government, and also with us here in the city. We would work with faith-based funding, private foundations, corporate sponsorships and individual donors.
Preliminary talks focus on the former Blue Cross Blue Shield building or the former Human Rights Commission building, Adams said. There are discussions about the possibility of building a new facility as part of the development plan, she said, adding that an initial phase would cost around $700,000 to get the program off the ground.
It’s hard to track the actual number of homeless people living in Wheeling, Adams noted.
“At any one time, I saw up to 275,” she said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t more people (who are) homeless.”
Some homeless people live in tents, while others may live in abandoned buildings or even move from couch to couch. Nor do all come forward to receive services.
In many cases, homeless people are drug addicts, suffer from mental disorders, or have been wrapped up in a life that involves criminal activity, sometimes simply to survive. Whatever the circumstance, each individual needs help to get out of the situation that contributes to their homelessness.
“It will give people a place to go, a place to be, and a place of their own where they feel cared for and where they feel they have value in their lives,” Adams said of the Life Hub. offers. ” Its very important. When you feel you have no value, then you act like you have no value. ”
A Life Hub can enlist not only social service agencies, but also community colleges and medical professionals to help connect people to the mental and physical health care they need, as well as pathways to get a GED or other job skills.
“It’s changing the landscape of homelessness across our country, and it’s becoming an incredibly powerful way to see change in that regard,” Adams said of the Life Hub approach.
“Departments and organizations I have spoken to tell me that since you were hired, they have never felt better about their relationship with the City of Wheeling,” Councilwoman Rosemary Ketchum said.
“I’m grateful for this work,” Adams said. “I am grateful for this position. It has been very challenging, but also incredibly rewarding.