What is the problem that needs to be addressed? Please describe how it is related to mental health.
As shelters are established in Orange County, it is clear that many homeless participants moving in from living on the streets struggle with the mental health issues related to that transition. Homeless shelter participants need support in making the change from street life to being housed. As they move to shelter living, and then to some form of independent housing, many homeless individuals refuse or leave the shelter or housing options afterwards due to the lack of understanding of the emotions related to the pathway to housing. Homeless participants need an evidence based curriculum that provides training on how to manage the mental health issues that arise during the transition from street to shelter/housing.
Why is this a concern for Orange County? What can Orange County and other counties learn from this project?
This is a concern for Orange County due to the increasing number of homeless both living on the streets and using the limited number of shelter beds. Many homeless individuals may decide to move to shelter only to either ‘get stuck’ there and not move any further on the pathway to independent housing; or refuse to stay at the shelter due to the emotions related to following rules they were not faced with while living on the streets. If Orange County is going to show progress in reducing homelessness, there needs to be an evidence based practice curriculum to use at all the new and developing shelter sites to train participants on housing coping skills. This can be a templated ‘how to’ program that can used at any shelter across the country, and can also be developed into a ‘train the trainer’ model that shelter operators can use at their sites on their own to allow for ongoing sustainability.
What is currently being done to resolve this problem in our county and throughout the United States? If applicable: Is it working; why or why not?
As shelters come online, many are attempting to bring in various support service providers, but there is not an accepted practice being used at any one site. Each site may bring in clinicians, substance use counselors, housing navigators, job coaches, etc. but each individual provider does their own service independently. This coping skills curriculum would incorporate all of those functions and be taught be any combination of clinician, peer, or shelter operator staff which can be replicated at low to no cost once developed. The system as it is now does not provide a curriculum based program that takes all those components into account, and serve each individual participant.
What is new or different about this project idea? Please describe how this differs from what is already being done (Question 6). Please list any research that was done on this topic.This is a completely original idea in Orange County that takes an evidence based practice multidisciplinary approach to supporting homeless individuals in regaining their humanity as they transition from street to shelter living. Services are being provided on a smaller scale, but this idea brings all services together to impact the whole person.
What is the project idea? Please describe how this project will operate.
The Pathway to Housing – Shelter Living Skills Curriculum would promote housing as a viable option for those homeless individuals who have been living on the streets for extended periods of time. Many homeless individuals struggle with the emotions related to making the transition from living with few to no rules or expectations to having to manage property, housing rules, meal times, relationships with others in closer proximity, etc. This curriculum will be a combination of group education, individual process sessions, case management, and daily assignments to support the transition. As each homeless participant enters one of the OC shelters, staff will complete an intake assessment that will include mental health and substance use history, length of time homeless, previous housing history, and participant expectations of shelter and moving to independent or permanent housing options. This assessment will be used to determine needs, and admit the participant into the daily individual and group curriculum components for their pathway to housing. The individual will work with their group and individual support person (who would be a peer) to complete daily goals or tasks moving them along the pathway to housing. They will process the emotions related to being under a roof instead of living on the streets each day, and work with their support group to engage in the housing process. This would support each shelter’s role as a temporary housing option, not a final destination leading to repeat episodes of homelessness. During the 3-4 years of launching this program, a program manual would be developed to demonstrate how each future shelter provider could enact this program for all of it’s participants, making it sustainable. Outcomes would be measured weekly as each participant completes aspects of their pathway to housing plan specified in the curriculum.
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