This summer, a group of ShelterCare employees met to discuss the Family Housing Program—to clarify the program's structure and to refine the program manager's job description in anticipation of recruiting a new person to fill that role. The lively and productive meeting accomplished those goals and more, including giving the program a new name.
Housing, Health & Wellness (HHW), now led by interim manager Bodhi Richards, seems an appropriate moniker for a program that does so much more than provide emergency shelter for families. Because of changes in funding, only six of the original 29 units are used for emergency family housing. ShelterCare reacted to these changes by reallocating the housing to other purposes, including Homeless Medical Recuperation (HMR), the successful new venture launched with PeaceHealth in 2013. Now housed at the former Royal Avenue facility, HMR has saved $1.26 million, avoided 756 days in the hospital, and changed the lives of many previously homeless individuals.
HHW units are now designated for a variety of uses, including "extended respite" stays for HMR graduates waiting for community housing and permanent housing for Supported Housing Program clients. HHW also uses its facilities to support community partnerships, including two beds reserved for referrals from the CAHOOTS mobile crisis unit. In addition, HHW manages two HUD Continuum of Care initiatives: Cascades Rapid Re-Housing, which provides two years of rent subsidy; and Camas, which provides permanent housing and support for individuals and families.
The recent history of HHW provides a great lesson in the importance of flexibility and pragmatism, important attributes in a nonprofit world impacted by constantly changing government priorities and funding streams. Executive Director Susan Ban explains the agency's philosophy regarding the program and its facilities.
"ShelterCare has provided shelter and support services on Highway 99 since the 1970s. As community priorities change, we adapt our services to respond to those priorities and we maximize the use of the shelter's units for households needing shelter. We anticipate more changes in the years to come and know that the agency will respond nimbly, providing effective services to vulnerable populations who need shelter and support."