I Will Tell Both Stories
Posted February 7, 2017
By Mary Rychlik, LMSW, Continuum of Care Manager
On January 26th, I participated in a Point-In-Time (PIT) Count. Working in administration, planning, and policy means I work mostly with service providers and community leaders but not often with people living in homeless situations. The Count reconnected me to that part of my work that touches my heart, energizing my passion to end homelessness.
HMIS: 2017 First Webinar
I know, it's already the third week of the year, but I haven't talked to a lot of you yet. Plus, the first couple of weeks, are always the hardest, because you're planning and getting used to the idea of being back at the office after the holidays.
But, in order for this year to be better than the last, we need to get this ball rolling and for that reason, we want to make sure we are on the same page on how this year will work from the HMIS Data Center perspective. What better way to kickstart this than by having a webinar?
Self-care - make it a priority this year
Posted January 11, 2017
By Jennifer Paulsen, Director of Development & Communications
Today THN hosted the first Bloc Talk of the year. Bloc Talks typically are short, 20-minute presentations followed by a 10-minute Q&A session. However, today’s talk lasted an hour. The topic? Self-care. Many of us aspire to incorporate self-care into our daily lives with the best of intentions but it can easily fall to the bottom of our priorities. We may think it’s being selfish or that self-care is going shopping or a spa day (I’m not opposed to either).
But it’s not being selfish and it’s more than treating ourselves occasionally. We cannot take care of others if we are not taking care of ourselves. This is important no matter what your vocation is, but especially if your work involves helping and/or caring for people. But let’s face it, we’re all working and caring for someone to some extent, whether it’s at home or a friend or at work.
Krista Del Gallo, Public Policy Manager and Mikisha Hooper, Family Violence Services Manager, both with the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV), presented on why it’s important we pay attention to wellness, the impacts of secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout, and how to go about intentionally and holistically prioritize your own self-care and well-being.
Some of the suggestions Krista and Mikisha gave to incorporate wellness into your work include being intentional about how you start and end your day, focus on what you did well, and breathe! Krista, also a Yoga instructor, started us out by breathing for 30 seconds and suggested we start a practice of wellness in the New Year and leave behind the guilt and shame if we’ve tried before or we don’t keep it up. We can keep trying – that’s why it’s practice.
Breathing seems so simple – we all do it instinctively but what about intentionally? I have a smart watch that reminds me to take a minute to breathe and that it’s time to stand up and move around. However, most of the time when the reminder to breathe appears, I hit “dismiss” as if it’s an annoying alarm clock. I don’t have time to breathe! Can’t you see I’m busy?? There is something seriously wrong if I can’t take a minute to consciously breathe. One minute. And when it’s time to stand up and move around I dismiss that as well – I just sat down! I’m working on something. Can’t you see that??
Krista and Mikisha also emphasized the benefits of Mindfulness and being present. Along with increasing work engagement and resilience in high-stress environments, it decreases levels of depression and anxiety symptoms. For agencies that may not emphasize wellness in the workplace, they suggest creating a wellness committee and finding other champions (you being one). Chances are other co-workers are feeling the need to incorporate more wellness into the workplace as well.
After the webinar, I took those breaks to breathe and picked up the dumbbells I brought to work when prompted to stand and move about. I’m going to continue to practice incorporating these habits.
View the recording here: https://youtu.be/Rc2DFtD5HUs?list=PL5c_GwJUb6953q1xTEcb3mGyTOPPB7-Bu
HUD Awards Nearly $2 Billion for Local Homeless Programs
Texas Receives $86,315,343
Austin, January 4, 2017 - As part of the Obama Administration’s effort to prevent and end homelessness, on Tuesday, December 20, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a record $1.95 billion in grants to nearly 7,600 homeless assistance programs across the nation, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. HUD’s Continuum of Care grants provide critically needed support to local programs on the front lines of serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
After cutting funds to many projects in 2015, HUD continued to challenge Continuums of Care (CoCs) to support their highest performing programs. Many CoCs also listened to HUD’s recommendation to shift funds away from existing underperforming projects and towards new projects. This allows the CoC to create projects based on best practices proven to further housing and supportive services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
Texas received $86,315,343 in awards:
· $8,654,457 San Antonio/Bexar County CoC
· $5,686,658 Austin/Travis County CoC
· $15,979,190 Dallas City & County, Irving CoC
· $11,323,933 Fort Worth, Arlington/Tarrant County CoC
· $2,763,916 El Paso City & County CoC
· $988,312 Waco/McLennan County CoC
· $6,499,737 Texas Balance of State CoC
· $595,303 Amarillo CoC
· $301,888 Wichita Falls/Wise, Palo Pinto, Wichita, Archer Counties CoC
· $33,233,058 Houston, Pasadena, Conroe/Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery Counties CoC
· $288,891 Bryan, College Station/Brazos Valley CoC
On the day of the announcement, HUD Secretary Julián Castro said, “Today marks another critical investment in support of those working each and every day to house and serve our most vulnerable neighbors. We know how to end homelessness and will continue to encourage our local partners to use the latest evidence to achieve success. These grants support proven strategies to end homelessness once and for all.”
There are 23,000 Texans experiencing homelessness. That number does not include the many who are one paycheck or catastrophe away from becoming homeless or those in hard to reach places. “The number of people experiencing homelessness is not acceptable but we are seeing a decrease, which is good news,” said Eric Samuels, President & CEO of Texas Homeless Network. “Homelessness is down by 42% since 2007 and HUD’s Continuum of Care funding has been integral to that success. We are encouraged by the level of funding awarded and will continue to work hard with Texas communities on ending homelessness.”
Texas has eleven Continuums of Care or CoCs. CoCs are comprised of a Board, Workgroup, Community Stakeholders, and a lead agency. The lead agency develops plans for the CoC’s geographic area, provides technical assistance, manages the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), and applies for funding on behalf of the projects located in their region.
About Texas Homeless Network (THN)
THN is a non-profit membership-based organization helping communities strategically plan to prevent and end homelessness. THN works to end homelessness in Texas by collaborating with all communities, large and small, across the state to build systems to achieve this goal. We coordinate local and national advocacy efforts, data collection and research, host two statewide conferences a year, and serve as the lead agency for the Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care (CoC) where we assist in the coordination of programs and funding.
Five Things I Learned As a Volunteer Coordinator
11-23-16, Posted by Jennifer Paulsen, Director of Development & Communications
Before I moved back to Texas, I worked as the volunteer coordinator at the largest homeless shelter in Salt Lake City. I loved my job but the holiday season, which seemed to start around Halloween and continue through to Christmas Eve, became a lot like hosting a 2-month long party. A good host stays cheerful (thank goodness for freak-out rooms) and makes sure the right number of people attend so that everyone has a good experience. This is especially challenging during the holidays when everyone and their dog wants to volunteer and you have a family standing in front of you with 12 members that have all come in from different states for their annual volunteer project but nobody called to schedule.
To help volunteers and volunteer coordinators, I have come up with five things I learned about volunteering from the perspective of a volunteer coordinator:
1. Call early. If you want to volunteer during the holidays, call the volunteer coordinator early in the year and ask when they’ll start scheduling volunteers. You’ll want to do this especially if you have a large group.
2. Be flexible. Be willing to help where they need you - even if it’s in the storeroom organizing donations. This may also mean after the holidays if they are already booked.
3. Be cheerful! Attitude will take you a long way. Volunteer coordinators need a good core group of volunteers they can rely on and make the job fun.
4. Follow through. Once you sign up, fulfill your commitment. Volunteer coordinators are counting on you. Unexpectedly, things come up so if you need to cancel, try to do it as early as possible.
5. Pitch in. If you are volunteering during a busy time, chances are the volunteer coordinator is running around attending to multiple things. Once you are done with your task or if there is a lull between rushes, look around and assess what you can do. Standing around waiting for orders is not helpful. Pitching in where needed is.
Thank you for volunteering and Happy Holidays!