Homelessness help

Last year the Gila County Board of Supervisors launched a new Task Force on Homelessness in order to coordinate efforts and community services, help homeless people as individuals — and, more lastingly, take a regional approach to reducing homelessness from the Rim Country through southern Gila County.

The task force includes leaders from Payson churches, Gila County Community Action Program staff, elected leaders such as Gila County Supervisors Tim Humphrey and Woody Cline, Payson Mayor Tom Morrissey and local people who simply wish to help.

Want to join the effort? Attend the next meeting at 10 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 19 at the Tonto Basin Chamber of Commerce.

“Our task force is open to any and all stakeholders — we need participation from all sectors of the community,” said Woody Cline, chairman of the Gila County Board of Supervisors.

“Whether you’re a concerned citizen or on staff with an agency that interacts with the homeless we need your input at the table.

“Law enforcement, hospitals, food banks, real estate agents, elected officials — that’s naming just a few of the people we need.”

Jake Gardner coordinates this Gila County task force and took time for an interview and update.

Q: Explain the term “Continuum of Care” and why that’s important; why it’s a focus for the task force and how that is being accomplished.

A: Continuum of Care is a community plan to organize and deliver housing and services to meet the specific needs of people who are homeless, as they move to stable housing and maximize self-sufficiency.

It includes action steps to end homelessness and prevent a return to homelessness.

Looking at HUD (housing and urban development) there are four parts of a CoC and they are these four necessary parts of a continuum:

• Outreach, intake, and assessment in order to identify service and housing needs and provide a link to the appropriate level of both;

• Emergency shelter to provide an immediate and safe alternative to sleeping on the streets, especially for homeless families with children;

• Transitional housing with supportive services to allow for the development of skills that will be needed once permanently housed; and

• Permanent and permanent supportive housing to provide individuals and families with an affordable place to live with services if needed.

Q: One major accomplishment is the strategic plan approved this fall by the Task Force on Homelessness. Is this new strategic plan posted online or available for anyone to read?

A: It is not posted online yet and is still being reviewed by the Gila County Board of Supervisors. Anyone interested in reading it is welcome to email me (jgardner@gilacountyaz.gov) or attend our December meeting to learn more. Main goals outlined in our three-year strategic plan are:

• Reduce the number of people who experience homelessness

• Establishing Coordinate Entry and Assessment Points

• Increase Availability of Permanent Housing

Q: Do you need volunteers for the annual January “Point In Time” count of homeless people? How should new volunteers get involved?

A: Yes. The task force needs volunteers to assist with the point in time count in January; those who can volunteer may email me at jgardner@gilacountyaz.gov.

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