Guest Blogger: Drew Gossett
Housing & Employment Coordinator, AimHire
The transition of the former St. Luke’s Shelter from a 7pm-to-7am shelter to a 24/7-accessible temporary residence has, in my eyes, been a tremendous blessing. Simultaneously addressing both the employment and housing needs of homeless men, it is a perfect example of the innovation and forward thinking in Friendship Place’s efforts to help our homeless neighbors regain their independence and rejoin the community as productive and self-sufficient members.
With the partnership of Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church (MMUMC), which historically managed St. Luke’s Shelter, Friendship Place’s AimHire Job Placement Program successfully reshaped the shelter into a new model of transitional housing—one without the access restrictions that many shelters have. In this model, AimHire staff help each resident identify his own goals—getting a job, gaining confidence and stability, regaining independence and self-sufficiency—and then create an individualized action plan to pursue those goals and ultimately move into his own affordable permanent housing. AimHire staff assists all residents through daily meetings, employment services, and case management. Frequent one-on-one attention helps each resident quickly move through the process of regaining employment and working toward self-sufficiency.
These changes have generated overwhelming positive energy all around and extreme goodwill and gratitude from our residents. They appreciate being treated with dignity and respect, and they are thankful for the opportunity to succeed on their own merits.
Within the first two months, the results were spectacular! Four of our seven residents gained employment. One of the residents who gained employment moved into his very own apartment, where he is still extremely happy. He says that without the stability provided by St. Luke’s, Friendship Place, and MMUMC, he would not have been able to regain his independence and move on with his life. Two other residents have also identified apartments they will move into as soon as they save a little more money.
Even better news: The more efficient the St. Luke’s transitional housing model becomes, the more homeless residents we can help. Although we can’t add more beds in the facility, we can decrease the amount of time each resident lives there so that more residents can be served. The previous model envisioned that six residents, plus a paid shelter manager and staff, would stay in the shelter 6 to 9 months. Many did stay that long.
With the new St. Luke’s model, seven beds are available to our homeless population, and, because of the individual attention the residents receive and the focus on employment services, the amount of time residents need to stay before moving into permanent housing is reduced to 3 or 4 months. In fact, when our first resident successfully transitioned into his own apartment, the vacant bed was filled with another resident within 3 hours! We are hopeful that the stability that St. Luke’s Shelter will provide the new resident will allow him to save up enough money to move into his own place in 1 or 2 short months.
Being a part of this process continues to be a truly gratifying experience. It’s wonderful and humbling to witness so many lives being improved one day at a time. I’m overjoyed to share this success with you all, and will continue to update our community on the progress at St. Luke’s.