Spotlight on Victoria Homeless Coalition
By Kraig Fiero
Throughout Texas, there are people doing amazing things to help prevent and end homelessness. Homeless Coalitions have the difficult task of staying on top of new regulations and information as well as getting busy service providers to meet on a regular basis. For the month of January, THN would like to showcase one such coalition.
The Victoria Area Homeless Coalition has been working diligently for the past 30 years to bring awareness to their community.
The Victoria Area Homeless Coalition was formed in 1985 by a group of concerned citizens and is a volunteer-run non-profit organization. Members include non-profits, churches, businesses and individuals dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness in the Victoria area. This group not only oversees Victoria county but helps six other counties in Texas, including Goliad, DeWitt, Gonzales, Lavaca, Calhoun and Jackson.
L to R: Gary Moses, Tyler Warner, Christine Krause, Carol Ayala, Jane Bernal and son
The newly elected Officers for the Board's next two-year term are:
Kim Pickens - President
Arturo Lara - Vice President
Amy Hatmaker - Treasurer
Johanna Rohan - Secretary
This past November the coalition held a number of events during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and offereds service opportunities at their partner organizations. The week kicked off with a food drive benefiting the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent and ended with a luncheon with invited speaker, Alan Graham of Austin's Mobile Loaves and Fishes.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us regarding Affordable Housing, but we have a lot of people who are interested in making a difference!” ~ Kim Pickens, President
Jodi Sandoval in front of the Feeding America truck
To find out more information or to get involved with this Coalition; you can contact:
THN Works with UT's School of Social Work to Develop Template for Coordinated Access
By Sophia Checa
From the left: Mary Dodson (Continuum of Care Manager), Sophia Checa (Coordinated Access Specialist), and University of Texas School of Social Work students Hellen Hollis, Michelle Binion, Katy Herbers, and Melody Huslage
During the Fall Semester 2014, Texas Homeless Network (THN) worked with a small group of students from Doctor Cal Streeter’s Dynamics of Organizations and Communities class at the University of Texas School of Social Work (UTSSW). The group was tasked with developing a gaps analysis template for the Balance of State Continuum of Care to utilize during the implementation of Coordinated Access, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development mandated systems change.
The students analyzed how the system currently serves individuals at-risk or currently experiencing homelessness. They also made predictions about how an ideal system would work. An ideal system is one where there are no individuals experiencing homelessness. While poverty may still exist and people will be at-risk of homelessness, the system will be able to quickly bounce people back into housing, i.e., preventing homelessness and/or reducing the length of time people are homeless.
The students researched gaps analyses, developed a template, and used the template to complete a gaps analysis for Corpus Christi. Based on their findings, they made the following recommendations to assist in systems change – moving from the current system to the ideal system – across the Balance of State:
- Communities in the Balance of State should organize community engagement meetings and make an effort to include those currently experiencing homelessness or at-risk of homelessness in those meetings;
- Communities in the Balance of State should implement Coordinated Access;
- Communities in the Balance of State should adopt diversion;
- Communities in the Balance of State should utilize the Vulnerability Index – Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT); and
- Communities in the Balance of State should direct (reallocate) resources away from emergency shelter and transitional housing toward rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing .
THN would like to thank Hellen, Michelle, Katy, and Melody for their hard work. They accomplished a lot in a short amount of time and thoroughly impressed us with their knowledge during the presentation of their project at the UTSSW on December 2, 2014 (see picture above).
THN Partners with t3 to Increase Access to Training
t3 (think. teach. transform) is partnering with Texas Homeless Network to increase access to training by lowering tuition for providers who work with vulnerable populations.
This Spring, t3 is offering three online instructor-led courses to instill essential best practices:
- Developing Your Identity, Skills, and Confidence as a Supervisor starting on March 12, 2015.
- How to Implement Critical Time Intervention starting on March 26, 2015.
- Bringing Trauma-Informed Care to Everyday Practice starting on April 1, 2015.
- Motivational Interviewing: Facilitating Change starting on April 23, 2015
A Visit to Cameron Park
As a part of #GivingTuesday, THN held a fundraiser to benefit low income families in Cameron County. In early January, THN VISTA member Peter Grein, with help from the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB), visited the Cameron Park colonia to distribute the collected donations. For more information about Peter's trip, click here.
Transportation and the Future City
On November 4th, registered Austin voters were given the opportunity to pass judgment on a billion dollar rail line transportation initiative. A controversial ballot measure that would eventually fail to pass, the moment highlighted a growing sentiment that the American people’s overreliance on personal automobiles is an unsustainable practice. As global populations increasingly flock to urban centers, international urban planners have been confronted with new challenges. Progressive policy makers are realizing that city-dwellers prefer walkable, dense cities driven by smart growth. In response to these desires, new public transportation models are being developed to reduce highway congestion and to promote environmentally friendly commuting.
Transportation and Affordable Housing
This period of American transportation reconsideration, has simultaneously stimulated exciting conversations regarding future opportunities for affordable housing. As the severity of the current affordable housing crisis crystalizes, transit-oriented housing development represents a powerful solution. For low income families, the ability to live without a car would prove a substantial monetary boon. Most estimates report that ownership of a car costs on average $8,000/year/vehicle. Hong Kong is one global leader in this emphasis on transit-oriented affordable housing, building around 1.4 million homes adjacent to rail and metro stations over the past forty years. In a study published by TransForm and the California Housing Partnership Corporation, participants living within a quarter-mile of a major public transportation hub were fifty percent more likely to travel without a car. The same study maintained that since their inception fifty-five years ago, a collection of transit-oriented complexes had reportedly eliminated an estimated 5.7 billion miles of driving by its renting population. Proponents of the transit-oriented development model point to the positive impacts of public transportation usage for both low income families and the city as a whole.
Denver’s Bold New Strategy
One American city that is poised to make strides in expanding affordable housing via transit-oriented development is Denver, CO. Since 2004, when Denver voters approved a comprehensive new transportation schema, the city has witnessed incredible results. One of the founding members of the Denver-area nonprofit Mile High Connects, Melinda Pollack, has reported that her agency plans on overseeing the construction of 2,000 affordable housing units alongside proposed rail lines over the course of the next 10 years. Further, Denver is the first city in the country to produce a fund specifically for transit-oriented development. According to its representatives, the fund has already purchased eight units of low income housing, allowing for the creation and rehabilitation of 626 affordable units. Over the course of the next decade, the city of Denver has ambitiously positioned itself as the West’s great transportation leader. After becoming well recognized for drastically reducing the city’s population experiencing chronic homelessness, it might also become the model for thoughtfully increasing access to affordable housing.
The 9x18 Plan
In New York City, some innovative minds have developed the so-called “9 x 18 Plan,” that demonstrates how reducing the number of car-dependent citizens can broaden new opportunities for affordable housing. Named after the dimensions of a common parking space, the plan aims to lessen American construction’s wasteful, expensive reliance upon parking spots. Rather than reserving a personal space for every unit, the “9 x 18 Plan” posits that developers construct only as many parking places as necessary for the particular complex. The thinking follows that those individuals living in units based near public transportation would be less dependent on private transportation methods, and thus those renters would not utilize their available parking space. Instead of wasting money on underused parking spaces, the plan maintains that free spaces could be converted into more affordable housing, store fronts, and green space. This proposition makes the development of transit-oriented development potentially even more enticing, revealing how the reduction of private transportation can create an avenue for further in-fill development, and the creation of affordable housing.
The current enthusiasm for international cities has created two inter-related problems: a lack of affordable housing and traffic congestion. Both issues pose long-term development obstacles to efficient urban development. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent, that these two issues can be addressed in tandem. Expansion of urban public transportation options creates new opportunities for the creation of low income housing. Close proximity to public transportation allows low income families to either use their private vehicle less, or to forego ownership of a car all together. By connecting low income people to public transportation networks, they are delivered greater access to their home city’s resources. At the same time, increased usage of public transportation decreases the number of drivers on the roadways. Transit-oriented development provides benefits for all urban citizens, and a brave new direction for modern cities.