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Coalition’s plan aims to fight homelessness

Written by Bruce Lindner. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on March 08, 2012 with No Comments

The Porter County Coalition for Affordable Housing is bringing together service providers, shelter and housing providers, community members, faith-based organizations and funders to work toward preventing homelessness and helping those affected have access to safe and affordable housing.

Our community’s cohesive efforts can only strengthen our commitment to tackle the issue of homelessness in Porter County.

I had the opportunity to join coalition members recently when we unveiled the plan, No Place Like Home, which includes key strategies to move our efforts forward.  

The 10-year plan is focusing on prevention through expanding outreach to at-risk households, increasing access to stable and affordable housing, boosting economic security by raising the earning potential of at-risk households and improving health and stability through access to physical and mental health care systems to improve quality of life. Strategies also include reworking the crisis response system by promoting greater participation by the partners on the coalition. The homeless management information system (HMIS) is designed to identify and evaluate the at-risk populations so they can be helped more efficiently.  

Porter County Aging and Community Services’ (PCACS) participation as an agency will continue as efforts to find solutions develop. We work with individuals seeking energy or emergency assistance who may be on the road to further financial challenges. Our agency’s involvement in the initiative is pertinent to our mission and goals to work toward a stronger and healthier community.

We are one of many organizations that have united under the coalition’s umbrella. The plan’s team leadership includes Mario Bustos, pastor of Valparaiso Mennonite Church; Caroline Shook, CEO of Housing Opportunities; Sharon Kish, president of United Way of Porter County; and Barbara Young, president of Porter County Community Foundation as well as assistance from numerous agencies from across the county.

Shook said the plan’s success depends on the participation and cooperation of many partners for it to truly make an impact. Housing Opportunities has been involved in the coalition since it started in 1999 and has been serving as the chair since 2010.

“The only way to end homelessness in Porter County is for everyone in the community to work towards the solution. It is important that everyone be involved. No one person or agency can do it all,” she said.

Currently, she said coalition members are starting to prioritize goals and seek to better inform the community about the initiative, including ways we can all join the effort on an individual basis.

We invite you to get involved through 10 key avenues.

Help with fund-raising: Additional resources are needed in order to keep the plan on track.

Spread the word: Help promote the effort by sharing the information with your own personal network and keep solutions in the conversation.

Volunteer: Set aside time to attend a coalition meeting, join a committee or help out at county service providers.

Develop affordable housing: Builders and housing developers can work directly to offer affordable choices.

Sponsor a talk: Raise awareness by spotlighting the issue through your own personal organizations such as your church, library, book club or community group.

Be a connection: If you know someone who may need assistance, make sure the person is aware of the three-digit phone number, 2-1-1, which anyone can call to learn more about health and human services.

Advocate: Bring the issue to the attention of people running for local office.

Assess your business: Evaluate ways your own expertise can contribute to the plan. If you are a landlord, consider how you can maintain quality housing while lowering rent costs.

Collect donations: Join local not-for-profits to gather everyday essentials needed by those facing homelessness.

Dignity and respect: Reasons why people fall into homelessness can range from job loss to poor mental health to a health crisis or domestic abuse. We need to treat homeless individuals we encounter with dignity and respect and to not judge them. We don’t know their personal stories or experiences that may have led them down this difficult road.

I hope you will join our efforts to fight homelessness in any way that you can as we look toward making sure everyone in our community has access to a safe and happy home.

To view a copy of the plan, visit any of the following websites: Housing Opportunities at www.housing-opportunities.com; Porter County Community Foundation at www.portercountyfoundation.org; Porter-Starke Services at www.porterstarke.org; United Way of Porter County at www.unitedwaypc.org; or Social IMPACT Research Center at www.heartlandalliance.org/research.

Bruce Lindner has worked in the non-profit world for more than 30 years and has been executive director of Porter County Aging and Community Services for five. A native of the region, he was raised in Portage and he graduated from Valparaiso University. For more information, contact him directly at 464-9736 or bhlindner@frontier.com.

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About Bruce Lindner

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle.  Bruce Lindner has worked in the not-for-profit world for more than 25 years and has been executive director of Porter County Aging and Community Services for five. A native of the Region, he was raised in Portage and he graduated from Valparaiso University. You can call him at 219-464-9736 or e-mail at bhlindner@frontier.com.

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