The LEAVEN Community Resource Center--opening soon!

After sound research, thoughtful consideration, and long-range planning, LEAVEN is expanding our current building to provide space for our community partners, creating a one-stop resource center to connect individuals and families immediately with the services and solutions they need.  The building, renamed the LEAVEN Community Resource Center, will provide more resources, better access, and greater support to help our clients transition from crisis management to self-sufficiency.  This is a major initiative that will expand our service delivery model, ensuring our ability to address client challenges in a more comprehensive and systemic way. 

For many struggling households, providing emergency financial assistance is a necessary starting point, but it is not enough.  Financial assistance needs to be combined with other social services and programs to help forge a path to self-sufficiency.   While our community has an expansive network of services, we know that households experiencing a financial crisis are focused on addressing their immediate need, and less concerned about preventing future crises.  Our research has shown that clients follow through on referrals that provide a financial public benefit or a tangible good and are less likely to access the resources that address financial literacy, physical/mental health care, health insurance enrollment, education/job skills training, etc.   By not following through on these referrals, they remain outside the periphery of the services that address the root causes of their poverty.

The dispersed nature of providers in our community hinders opportunities to access these needed supports and services.  Our clients may lack the transportation or time for referral follow-through.  They also may not see the value of the referral or are embarrassed and ashamed to have to repeat their story to another provider. 

Solving homelessness, reducing poverty and improving lives requires fresh thinking, dedication and the ability to be self-critical.  We knew we need to address problems in a more systemic way to reduce the need for, and reliance on, emergency financial assistance. 

We began piloting a one-stop resource model in 2016 by offering space to select community partners.   Immediately we saw the value of being able to walk someone down the hall to connect with services, changing the process from a referral to a “warm hand-off”.   We had great success in connecting people with education, addressing legal issues, engaging in financial counseling, and enrolling in public benefits.

The LEAVEN Community Resource Center will remove barriers and create opportunities for low-income people to connect with solutions.  Services will be provided in a comprehensive way that supports the whole person, rather than offer one service at a time in isolation of each other.  The synergy created among agencies will improve the access, efficiency and coordination of services.  In addition, it will impose accountability on our clients, our partners, and on LEAVEN.  Within the expanded facility, LEAVEN will continue to serve as the “emergency room”, diagnosing the problem and stabilizing the household.  Our partners will provide “specialized care”, lifting and empowering these households to long-term stability.

Based on focus groups, discussions with our community partners, and current synergies with those partners already on site, we had little trouble recruiting agencies to join our vision for the LEAVEN Community Resource Center.  Having fourteen partner organizations under one roof will provide ease of access that will empower clients to get their needs met and move forward.  Some organizations will relocate permanently and lease space, others will be on campus part-time or for select hours. 

When the LEAVEN Community Resource Center opens in September 2018, it will provide comprehensive, integrated services and programs under one roof, connecting people to educational opportunities, job resources, mental health counseling, financial counseling, legal assistance, public benefits, mentoring and other services and solutions that will help them transition from crisis management to self-sufficiency.