Chamber Chat - S3 Housing Connect

Mar 10

By Meg Moss

 

This past Monday’s Public Policy Lunch, hosted by the Sanford Area Growth Alliance – Chamber of Commerce, focused on the S3 Housing Connect program.  This initiative seeks to bring together the needed resources to create a coordinated approach to ensure that homelessness is a “rare, brief, and non-recurring experience”.

 

Karen Kennedy, Community Development Manager with the City of Sanford, and Jeffrey Rawlings with Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, Inc., who is also the S3 Committee Chair, presented on the efforts and successes of this task force dedicated to issues surrounding homelessness.

 

The need for this project was identified after twenty two homeless people were found to be living in an uninhabitable building, and had to be relocated after the building was deemed condemned. This situation proved to Sanford that resources for the homeless needed to be located and brought to light immediately. The intent of this initiative is to identify all existing resources in our community and bring those resources together to create a coordinated and comprehensive approach to end homelessness in our community.

 

Every year during the last week in January, communities across the US undertake a count of the homeless staying in shelters or transitional housing designated for the homeless or who are staying in situations not meant for human habitation such as camps, abandoned houses, or cars. This PIT (Point in Time) Count is a snapshot of what homelessness looks like on a given night. In January 2018 in Lee County, 34 volunteers recruited and trained through the efforts of S3 Housing Connect, conducted the count and identified 95 people experiencing homelessness in Sanford-Lee County. Fifty-one of those individuals were staying in unsheltered places not meant for human habitation. The S3 Housing Connect took part in the PIT count again this past January, but the final numbers have not been released.

 

I applaud the efforts of the City of Sanford, through S3 Housing Connect. There have been many accomplishments since its inception in 2017. According to the 2018 S3 Report, conducted by the NC Coalition to End Homelessness, a few examples of accomplishments include S3 working with the Bread of Life Ministries, who opened a low barrier, extreme weather shelter in the old McIver School. Inspired by the example of Bread of Life and support of S3, Outreach Mission Incorporated changed their operating model to also be a low barrier shelter. The City of Sanford and the Sanford Housing Authority were awarded $790,000 to renovate an abandoned structure on Linden Avenue into 5 apartments for available housing. And S3 advocated for and received commitment from the City of Sanford for $35,000 to Rapid Re-housing funds, which provides short-term rental and utility assistance.

 

According to the NC Housing Coalition, housing is affordable when it comprises no more than 30% of the family’s budget. Families that spend more than this on housing are cost-burdened. The Housing Coalition goes on state that in order to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in Lee County, it will cost $745/month.

 

In addition to the work being done by the S3 Housing Connect, Kendra Martin, Executive Director of the United Way of Lee County shared with the lunch attendees information about the NC 211 Program, and the coordinated entry efforts for homeless services that are coming soon. On March 28th, there will be a Lee County Coordinated Entry Kickoff to use 2-1-1. NC 211 provides a free, confidential service that provides individuals information about the myriad of services available to them in Lee County, to include food, housing and utility assistance, health care services, senior services, credit counseling, and more. The event will take place from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm (lunch provided) at the McSwain Center. The event is free, but registration is required at www.leecountyunitedway.org. At this event, you will learn why coordinated entry is so important; why United Way of Lee County is investing in this initiative on behalf of the community; what to do if someone experiencing homelessness comes to you, your organization, or your business for help; and how you can help spread the word about 2-1-1 to our whole community.



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