High Risk Prevention Program
Regular dependence on LEAVEN’s assistance is strongly discouraged. Our help is, by definition, limited. Our goal is to help people through their crisis and connect them to the resources that will help guide them out of poverty. This approach is very effective with the majority of our clients. However, there is a small faction of our client whose needs are greater than what our help was providing.
In June 2008, Homeless Connections (formerly the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley) merged their prevention program with LEAVEN to create one point of entry into the system for at-risk households. Prior to the collaboration, the agencies were operating similar programs. LEAVEN had been delivering on our mission of providing emergency financial assistance and referral services to households in crisis since 1987. Homeless Connections was providing assistance to prevent households from reentering the shelter. This fragmented process of two agencies providing similar services resulted in the potential for duplication and abuse of services. It also meant that the client had to tell their story twice and piece together help. It wasn’t a dignified or efficient way for someone in need to get help.
We recognized that we were serving some of the same clients. These were the households imminently at risk of becoming homeless because of the magnitude of their crisis or their chronic inability to meet their own needs. For these households, the financial assistance is only a safety net until their next crisis arises. About 10% of LEAVEN’s client population requested help more frequently than what our mission was intended to provide.
By separating this high-risk population from our clients who need help only once or twice, the essence of the program is different than what either agency was providing individually. Homeless Connections’ case manager is housed at LEAVEN where she meets with targeted clients, offering them more intensive case management and follow-up services.
- Provides intake, assessment and follow-up services, as well as direct financial assistance, to high risk households. Through intensive case management, the issues that plague the client are identified and addressed. Many of these clients have one or more barriers to self-sufficiency with mental illness, fiscal illiteracy, physical and cognitive disabilities, addiction and criminal history among the most frequently identified. An individual case plan is then written, goals are established and expectations are set.
- The client is expected to follow the plan as their compliance will greatly impact their success.
We have been able to identify 3 categories of clients within the High Risk Prevention Program, each category with their own measure of success.
We refer to the categories as Hand Up, Hand Out and Hands On:
- Hand Up: There are those who are willing and able to become self-sufficient, they embrace the case plan and are impacted by the financial and referral assistance of the program. For these clients, the program reduces recidivism and promotes greater self-sufficiency, resulting in reduced dependency on community resources.
- Hand Out: There are those who are able to reduce their dependency but unwilling to follow a case plan. The program weeds out these people who are only looking for a financial hand-out. They are welcome to reapply, but they must be willing to comply with the case plan.
- Hands On: There are those in our community who have significant barriers to self-sufficiency and will likely always require some assistance. These barriers are either long-term or permanent, often through no fault of their own, and compromise their ability to work. A case plan is still written, but self-sufficiency is often dependent on the availability of other programs and services. Success is measured by our acknowledgment that these clients may always have financial struggles and by our willingness and ability to provide them a safety net.
- Very few of the people who have received prevention services have had to enter the Shelter. In 2014, we had a 95% success rate of keeping people imminently at-risk of homelessness in their community housing and out of shelter.
- While we haven’t been able to eradicate poverty among this population, we have been able to lengthen the time between their crises and reduce the amount of financial assistance required to address it. Of the people who received assistance through the program in 2013, 76% did not return for additional assistance in 2014.
- What cannot be measured are the dignity and satisfaction the person receives in being able to provide for their own needs.
We’ve learned a lot in our 7+ years of experience with this program. We know that self-sufficiency takes time, but begins with addressing basic needs first. We know that some of our clients need more intensive follow-up services than what the program was designed to address. This realization resulted in a new collaboration with Appleton St. Vincent de Paul called the Next Step.