Giving a full spectrum of care

During a recent morning at the PADS Day Services Center, Leo Alvarez, 20, talks to case manager Melissa O’Donnell about his weekend in the church shelters.

O’Donnell reads a note from the church site about some behavior problems Alvarez had over the weekend.

“I’m asking you to tone it down,” she tells Alvarez. “I don’t want to see you banned.”

Alvarez apologizes, and O’Donnell says she has seen some growth in him.

O’Donnell speaks with Alvarez about how it’s going and what he needs to apply for, such as a Link card and Social Security benefits. They discuss the need for transportation, and O’Donnell writes down phone numbers for Alvarez to call in case he has any problems.

Working with employees in the PADS Day Services Center is just one part of the Continuum of Care to End Homelessness that exists in McHenry County. It is a community group that plans and organizes services to meet the needs of people who are homeless.

The continuum includes representatives from the McHenry County Housing Authority, Mental Health Board, Turning Point, Veterans Affairs, Lake and McHenry county regional offices of education, Catholic Charities, The Salvation Army, Home of the Sparrow, the Pioneer Center for Human Services, Transitional Living Services, Thresholds and PADS, among others.

The participating agencies meet once a month to see how they can work together.

“I get to resource out and network and see, TLS has an opening, [or] Home of the Sparrow has an opening,” O’Donnell said. “We make that known in the meeting.

“We’re creating this better safety net for them that helps carry them out,” O’Donnell added. “We try, at least. .... Creating a smooth transition and making sure all of your resources match the same goal is important. ... We want to make sure everybody is making sure the maximum amount of people are successful. I don’t think the continuum can do it if your goals are different than your goals, and your goals are different over here. If we can work together toward that goal, it’s the best thing for anybody.”

In the past 13 years, the Continuum of Care has received $9.7 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The continuum has five objectives: create new permanent housing beds for chronically homeless persons; increase the percentage of participants remaining in funded permanent housing projects for at least six months; increase the percentage of participants in transitional housing that move into permanent housing; increase the percentage of participants in funded projects that are employed when they leave the program; and decrease the number of homeless households with children.

“It’s been a little tougher to create new beds; we would like to create a new permanent shelter,” said Todd Schroll, one of the continuum’s co-facilitators. “There’s been success in getting people into permanent housing, reducing the number of children homeless, and getting people employed.”

Part of the goal is to allow homeless or formerly homeless people to have input on how the continuum works.

“It’s really nice to see we’re trying to focus on what an actual client needs. Not what I think a client needs,” O’Donnell said.

Under the continuum, the agencies work to provide supportive services, permanent supportive housing, emergency housing, transitional housing and permanent housing.

“These agencies worked together in the past and continue to work together, trying to improve the system,” said Tom Riley, a grant writer for Pioneer Center.

Schroll said there is difficulty getting people from transitional housing to permanent housing because of the costs.

“Unfortunately, there is a lack of resources and an increase of people who need services,” Schroll said.

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