McHenry County group to finalize strategic plan to end homelessness in county

Continuum of Care to End Homelessness focusing on action steps

Amy Terpstra said the McHenry County Continuum of Care to End Homelessness’s vision for its new strategic plan could be summarized in one statement: “To make McHenry County a place where homelessness is rare, homelessness is brief and homelessness is nonrecurring.”

Terpstra, director of research with Heartland Alliance, the social service agency based in Chicago that made the report, has been working for the past year on a strategic plan to end homelessness in McHenry County.

A plan such as this is something the continuum hasn’t had in years, continuum Chairman Hans Mach said.

The continuum is all volunteer-based, Mach said, and is made up of service providers and residents in the area, but they have discussed making it a nonprofit organization.

Mach said he hopes the plan will help the continuum prioritize what the needs are in the community and provide steps to address those needs. Part of what the continuum does is approve applications for funding requests in the county to assist in the coordination and development of services and housing for homeless and low-income persons with housing needs.

“If you’re giving funds to an organization, you want to make sure it’s being put to the best possible use,” Mach said. “Now that we have a plan, we’ll be able to organize it more effectively.”

Funding for the creation of the plan came from the McHenry County Mental Health Board and McHenry County Department of Planning and Development Community Development Division, Mach said. He said the total cost was about $27,000.

Terpstra said Heartland Alliance created a three-year plan that is action-oriented.

She said McHenry County has great service providers in the community who know what they’re doing, and the plan can help get more players in the community involved.

“I think the plan is all about getting them to work together, really being pointed in the same direction, working toward the same common goals,” Terpstra said.

She said the plan addresses three areas. The first is making sure the county has enough affordable housing. The plan recommends exploring the idea of having a year-round fixed-site shelter in the county.

The next section suggests addressing factors that help create homelessness in the first place, such as not having enough high-paying jobs, she said.

Internal structure and governance of the continuum of care is another area the plan suggests is looked at. Terpstra said the plan suggests putting more formal structure and policy in place for the continuum.

Mach said the continuum will review the final plan at its regular meeting at 9 a.m. Jan. 14 at the Mental Health Board, 620 Dakota St., Crystal Lake.

“If people want to work to end homelessness, or they want to know what’s going on, they’re welcome to attend,” Mach said.

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