Family homelessness is a growing problem in Middle Tennessee. Making matters worse, there are very few agencies specifically addressing family homelessness here.
"We are going to fill this gap," said Matt Preston, program coordinator for Catholic Charities of Tennessee's new Family Empowerment initiative.
The agency was recently awarded a multi-year grant from the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville (UWMN) to, as Preston explained, "fill a unique service gap in Nashville."
The number of children experiencing homelessness in the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) is "staggering," he said. "The worst part, though, is that those numbers do not include those at risk for homelessness." No one really knows for sure how many are at risk for homelessness.
During the 2012-2013 school year, MNPS reported 2,821 enrolled students as being considered "homeless" (as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act - see box).
"Our overall objective is to implement case management, coordination, and financial assistance with families experiencing homelessness and those at risk of being homeless," Preston added. As many as 105 families - approximately 400 individuals -- will be involved with the initiative each year.
Case managers are positioned at three existing United Way Family Resource Centers, including the South Nashville Family Resource Center (FRC) which is managed by Catholic Charities. Their job is to identify, assess, and connect families to basic needs such as food, clothing, housing, and medical/mental health services.
"We want to assist families in obtaining financial stability, maintaining stable housing, and making healthy choices," explained Preston.
"The Nashville Family Empowerment Program and the collaborative work that UWMN will be doing with Catholic Charities, Safe Haven, MNPS, MDHA, the Nashville Financial Empowerment Center, and others is important because it creates a pathway toward independence for families," explained Rebecca Carter, United Way associate director Community Impact.
"It addresses needs through a multi-generational case management model focused on the financial, educational and health needs of students and their families."
Preston continued, "After an initial assessment addressing basic needs, we develop and implement a plan focused on services that foster and sustain self-sufficiency for the family."
Through this approach, participants develop skills and gain knowledge in areas such as healthy socialization and life-skills in order to support growth in the care giving system, and strengthen the well-being of children as families transition out of poverty.
Case management is collaborative. Partner communication on each program's cases occurs weekly, in order to prioritize available resources and collaborate on programmatic activities.
"Catholic Charities was selected as a partner through the Volunteer Review Process," noted Carter. "The strength of their application, history with case management during times of crisis, existing relationships in at-risk communities and ability to reach across multiple parts of the city were all strengths of the Family Empowerment Program proposed by Catholic Charities."
"Additionally, Catholic Charities had a good understanding of the Siemer Case Management model and the expectations."
Click here for the entire Catholic Charities of Tennessee Fall 2014 Newsletter.
Call-out Box #1:
Who is homeless?
The term "homeless children and youth"
(A) means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence...and
(i) children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to a lack of alternative accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement;
(ii) children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
(iii) children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and (iv) migratory children who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described in clauses (i) through (iii).
McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (Section 725) (as provided by the National
Center for Homeless Education)
Call-Out Box #2:
The Siemer Family Stability Program provides support to families on the brink of homelessness. The Two-Generation approach supporting the adults and the children in the family is used. Case management and direct financial assistance are provided to the adults/parents. Concurrently, case management services are provided to children with the intent of improving school attendance and performance. This comprehensive approach is being implemented in over 47 communities nationwide.