The following article was published in The Times Record on 2/8/19 and written by Jennifer Iacovelli, Tedford Housing’s director of development.
Tedford Housing changed its name from Tedford Shelter back in 2006 in recognition of the organization’s evolution to include permanent supportive housing and related homeless prevention services. While community members still refer to us as Tedford Shelter, we take a much more comprehensive approach to homelessness than just providing beds for overnight guests (the original intent of the organization).
But what does a comprehensive approach to homelessness mean? What does it look like for an organization like Tedford Housing in the community of Brunswick, Maine?
First and foremost it is having strategies for working with the full range of people who experience homelessness. One size does not fit all when it comes to those in need of Tedford Housing’s services, which includes emergency shelter, homeless prevention, emergency heating assistance and permanent housing for previously homeless individuals and families.
Our last Giving Voice article addressed our highest priority population we now serve, the long term stayers. The long term stayers include those who have the highest barriers to finding and maintaining permanent housing and who have been in our emergency shelters the longest. Addressing the high needs of this population not only frees up beds for other people who are experiencing homelessness, but it also reduces emergency room visits, police interventions and other uses of public services.
A big piece of the puzzle in providing pathways from homelessness to home, as our mission states, is case management. Case management is at the core of all the services Tedford Housing provides. All clients are exposed to some level of case management in order to understand the causes of homelessness, to develop a housing stability plan specific to their situation and to access resources for achieving permanent and stable housing for the long term.
Case managers, also called housing or stability navigators, are the biggest advocates for all of Tedford Housing’s clients. They work hard to stay up to date on the ever-changing availability of and requirements for housing subsidies. They work closely with landlords and make sure their clients know exactly what resources are available to them and how to access them. They meet regularly with shelter guests to review paperwork and the steps they need to take to find housing. They help families and individuals come up with a plan to address the issues that prevent them from maintaining housing or put them at risk for losing their housing. They connect guests, tenants and clients to key resources in the community to get the services they need.
Though many people may think of Tedford Housing as helping “the homeless,” the truth is that we help individuals and families to reduce their risk of becoming homeless. The majority of Tedford Housing’s clients are only homeless for a short period of time, if they become homeless at all. Once a housing navigator helps someone attain housing, they “follow” the individual or family for up to a year with stability services in order to ensure they have everything they need to maintain housing. People need income to sustain housing. Our navigators connect clients to resources in the community like that of Workforce Solutions that offer up pathways to job training and employment. The ongoing support that case management provides dramatically reduces the risk of returning to homelessness.
Tedford Housing has a limited supply of permanent supportive housing options in Brunswick, Bath, Augusta, Lewiston and Auburn that have provided long term, stable housing to many with histories of significant barriers to stable housing. Many of our tenants have remained housed for years and are now paying market rental rates. We have enough successes under our belt to know the strategies that work and that some strategies don’t work for all clients.
Tedford Housing prides itself on being up to date on the best practices when it comes to addressing the complex issues involved with homelessness. Our key strategy remains a housing first approach – focusing on permanent housing placement in as short a time as possible coupled with case management to access community resources that can ease the transition into a life not complicated by the ongoing emergency of homelessness.