A victim of domestic violence, Felicia knew that she and her daughter needed to get out. While that meant they could be safe, it also meant that for the first time in their lives, they would be homeless. “The face of homelessness has dramatically changed over time,” explains Dustin Hardison, Director of Stabilization and Housing. “It’s not just the person sleeping on the park bench. It’s someone fleeing an unhealthy living situation, or a single income family who can’t keep up with the rent and other expenses.”
As the definition of homelessness has broadened, so have the housing services offered by Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. The organization’s introduction into housing began in 2008 when it assumed operation of Shalom House, a 24-bed facility for homeless men in Kansas City, Kansas. In 2011, Catholic Charities began implementing the first Housing First Rapid Re-Housing grant in Johnson County.
Within three years, the organization on began assistng with rapid rehousing throughout its 21-county service area. The last five years has brought even more change to the way Catholic Charities approaches housing. “We collaborate closer with community partners and our local planning commitees to help those who are at risk for, or who are experiencing homelessness, gain permanent housing,” says Kim Brabits, MSW, Vice President, Program Operations.
While people may think finding housing marks the end of services, at Catholic Charities, it’s just the beginning. Individuals and families receive up to 12 months or more of multidisciplinary case management to help them maintain their housing. “We work as a team to get to know these families and identify the barriers they have concerning employment, transportation, childcare and healthcare,” says Dani De León, Case Management Specialist. Catholic Charities offers financial education coaching and classes including topics such as budgeting, the importance of credit, predatory lending and financial goal setting. Creating and implementing a plan for employment is also a primary focus. “Access to health care is a constant concern, and with the help of our Community Health Coordinator, we’re able to bring services to our participants or identify appropriate referrals,” adds Brabits.
Thanks to this comprehensive housing program, Felicia has maintained a one year lease and paid her utilities on time and in full each month. She has a job with benefits. Most of all, she has hope for her and her daughter’s future.