Continuum of Care prepares for dropping temperatures, rising need
Home for All Continuum of Care, a part of the Heart of Illinois United Way, is preparing for temperatures to drop and the need for warmth and shelter to rise.
Continuum of Care is focused on helping design and craft responses to homelessness in central Illinois.
“Rather than being the boots on the ground, the direct service, we’re really focusing on looking at the data,” said executive director Kate Green. “Understanding from a system level what’s happening and then allocating resources to help meet the need.”
Continuum of Care maintains close relationships with many Peoria area nonprofits and service organizations, so those resources can take many forms.
“It really is the beauty of the Continuum of Care model. That we’re able to pull in all these different sectors,” said Green. “So whether it’s our actual funded providers who are doing emergency shelter, street outreach, permanent housing, all the way to our healthcare organizations, educational institutions, they all play a role in touching the lives of those who are experiencing homelessness.”
This wide net of services is especially important at a time where additional factors aggravate the level of need.
“I think what we’re seeing now is that all of those pandemic-related reliefs that were put in place, and really help people stay housed during the pandemic itself, have started to roll off or have rolled off completely,” said Green. “So now we’re really seeing the impacts in terms of those who are experiencing homelessness.”
Green said thet numbers of individuals, couples and families with kids seeking shelter locally are all rising.
“It is something that I think while we anticipated, it’s still frustrating to see,” she said. “It’s something that we’re certainly working on.”
Inflation plays a role in this as well. As the cost of housing, food and utilities rise, families may need to find more affordable housing. Unfortunately, affordable housing is difficult to find, too. Green said finding housing at 50% to 80% of the area median income can be “excessively difficult.”
There also is the danger of increasingly dangerous weather conditions. While battling all of these factors, Green said Continuum of Care is working to fight stigmas surrounding homelessness.
“What I would really encourage people to do first, you know, kind of challenge your stigmas, or challenge your assumptions,” she said. “Really putting first that these are individuals that find themselves in a difficult position.”
She encourages people to imagine what it would take to experience homelessness in their own life
According to Mayor Rita Ali, Continuum of Care has been recently involved as one of many organizations in talks with the City of Peoria to develop a plan if migrants from Chicago are bused in. She said the agency's expertise in housing is “one cog in the wheel” of a local response.
“I think that communities across the state are having these conversations, right, that if this were to happen with three hours notice or 24 hours notice, you know, a week notice, what does that look like,” said Ali. “Making sure that you identify what resources you have, what strengths you have, but also what gaps would need to be filled in order to make sure these people are treated humanely.”
For Continuum of Care, finding housing for asylum seekers would provide some additional considerations to their normal process. Green said many of these have to do with staying culturally sensitive.
“We’re looking at things like legal implications, all the way to the point of making them feel at home in terms of the food that might be offered to them,” she said. “This is a very traumatic experience. Not only are these individuals technically experiencing homelessness, but there’s so many layers to the journey that they’ve just made.”
Wherever the need is coming from, Green said the continuum has multiple evidence-based approaches to meet people where they are.
“Whether it be eviction prevention, utility assistance, you name it,” she said. “On the front end, all the way through to permanent supportive housing for folks who may forever need a place with some supportive services tied to that housing intervention. So we really do have the whole bandwidth of options.”
If you’re in need or looking for more information about how to donate or volunteer, you can find a list of those services on Continuum of Care’s website here.