Housing Continuum of Care
What’s a Housing Continuum of Care?
For some individuals experiencing homelessness, a quick helping hand is all that they need to get back on their feet again.
But most need more support so that they can become self-sufficient again. After all, many individuals who lack a safe home also cope with other difficult issues that can impede their progress.
They may have an unaddressed but disabling mental illness, addiction, or a chronic health condition. They may lack clothing or basic necessities with which they could set up a home. They may have lost their personal documents that would enable them to get a job or apply for public assistance programs. They may have outstanding legal issues that prevent them from moving on in life. They may be unable to come up with enough money for a security deposit for an apartment, along with everything else needed to furnish a home.
That’s where Community Advocates’ Housing Continuum of Care comes in. We provide a continuum of supports and services for those at risk of losing their home as well as those who currently lack a safe place to live.
Components of Our
Housing Continuum of Care
Community Advocates provides a wide range of services and supports for individuals and families that experience homelessness, or are at risk of becoming homeless.
Our Homeless Outreach Nursing Center staff is trained to engage with individuals who are living on the streets and assess their needs. Our 24/7 domestic violence crisis line (414-671-6140), answered by Milwaukee Women’s Center staff and carefully trained volunteers, receives calls from individuals and families who are leaving an abusive relationship at home and have nowhere to stay.
After these initial contacts, Community Advocates offers additional programming to provide longer-term supportive services so that individuals and families can establish a safe, stable, permanent home.
For example, our Autumn West Safe Haven provides temporary housing with case management services for individuals who have been without a home for an extended period of time and are living with a disabling condition. Autumn West staff are able to help these individuals find stability again, whether it’s through peer counseling, help with signing up for safety net programs, assistance with obtaining an ID and other documents, getting to a doctor, or helping to reintegrate into the community. Autumn West also offers free laundry, meals, computer access, and 24/7 encouragement as residents make the transition into a permanent home.
Similarly, the Milwaukee Women’s Center provides additional supports once a woman and her children are out of crisis. These can include housing counseling so that they can move into a new residence, help with securing income and legal protection, clothing and other basic supplies, and substance abuse treatment if necessary.
From there, many Autumn West residents are able to transition into a permanent home, but they need a little more support. That’s where our Project Bridge and My Home programs come in. These programs work with local landlords to help our clients negotiate a lease and rent payments. The Project Bridge and My Home staff also provide additional wraparound services, such as help with health care, transportation, food assistance, legal advocacy, and life skills coaching.
The Project Bridge and My Home staffers go above and beyond for their clients by organizing a yearly family-oriented picnic at Washington Park; celebrating a holiday party at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, complete with dinner, carols, and gifts; and giving away turkeys at Thanksgiving. They even provide a birthday cake for every member enrolled in the program to make them feel special and valued.
Of course, the best way to reduce homelessness is to prevent it from disrupting an individual’s or family’s life. That’s why Community Advocates offers so many ways to engage with tenants before their housing situation becomes a crisis and forces them out of their home.
Our Housing Department helps renters work out disputes with their landlords, gets needed repairs done, creates payment plans for security deposits, and educates landlords and tenants on their rights and responsibilities. Our Energy Assistance Department aids low-income utility customers to access one-time payments and other benefits so that they can keep their lights on and the furnace running during the winter heating months. All of these services and supports can help a family continue to live in a stable, safe home, even if they fall on hard times.
Our Housing Continuum of Care in Action
This story about Christopher illustrates how Community Advocates’ Housing Continuum of Care helps individuals experiencing homelessness – even if it takes a while to see results.
Christopher first met the Homeless Outreach Nursing Center team in November of 2014. At that time he was a young adult who had been homeless, sleeping either in shelters or outside for the previous two years. He was friendly but extremely guarded and wasn’t ready to fully engage with or trust team members at that time. Still, he would seek out HONC staff intermittently over the years. Finally, after two years of conversations and connections, Christopher felt comfortable enough to allow the Homeless Outreach Nursing Center team into his life.
Christopher had been diagnosed with a mental illness but he wasn’t being treated for it. Living on the streets in perpetual crisis did not provide the safe space he needed to connect with doctors and get help.
After the HONC staff met with him many times over the course of several months, Christopher agreed to consider moving into Autumn West Safe Haven. He was unsure about the move, but after meeting several times with Autumn West staff he felt safe enough to give it a try. His apartment at Autumn West represented the first safe, indoor space to himself that he had occupied in over four years.
Christopher received many supportive services when he lived at Autumn West to help him make the transition from his former life without a home to independence and self-sufficiency. Although he struggled at times, with the backing of Autumn West staff Christopher had the opportunity to make decisions about the direction his life would take and make sense of his mental health at his own pace. His journey would be as unique as he is.
Autumn West staff discovered that Christopher seemed to blossom when he was able to create art. Painting and drawing gave him a satisfying outlet for his feelings and his artwork helped staff better understand his experience with his mental illness. Eventually, with the help of Autumn West and Homeless Outreach Nursing Center staff support, he decided that he wanted to try medication. When he was ready, staff was able to connect him with psychiatric services and appropriate treatment. In addition, Autumn West staff helped him get approved for SSI so that he would have a steady income to help him become independent.
After eight months at Autumn West, Christopher was flourishing and ready to take the next step. An apartment in Community Advocates’ Project Bridge permanent supportive housing opened just at the perfect time for him. He was able to move into his own apartment for the first time, and, best of all, he was already familiar with Community Advocates staff, so he was felt safe making the transition from one team to another.
Almost three years’ time passed between Christopher’s first contact with Homeless Outreach Nursing Center outreach staff and his move into Project Bridge supportive housing. But along the way Community Advocates staff continued to build support around him to gain his trust and help him reach his goal of living independently and stably. Christopher continues to thrive and is grateful to work on his art in a space that is entirely his own.
Are you having difficulty with your housing situation? Please call Community Advocates at 414-449-4777.
If you are having a domestic violence crisis, call the Milwaukee Women's Center's 24/7 hotline at 414-671-6140. If you are in an emergency situation, call 911.
If you are experiencing homelessness and need help, call Impact 2-1-1.