In early 1995, a group of housing providers and other related agencies began to meet regularly as a loose coalition called the PESSH Group (Planning for Effective Seamless Services for the Homeless). DELTA Housing, Inc., a HUD funded transitional housing program, convened the initial meeting and provided leadership and administrative support for the PESSH Group to this date. The PESSH Group had a plenary session every other month and working task forces met between sessions. Members of the PESSH Group worked together to share the benefits of a rent supplement program made possible by funding from Dauphin County. Participants in the rent supplement program are graduates of local transitional housing agencies. This continued support prevents homelessness and is necessary to ensure success. The City’s Department of Building and Housing Development (DBHD) worked with the PESSH Group as part of the Continuum of Care development activity.
The City’s DBHD invited 30 housing providers and other related agencies to a public meeting on June 25, 1997 to evaluate and revise its Continuum of Care originally developed in April 1995. The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development was also invited. DBHD mailed the Continuum of Care to all of the local providers to obtain input and information. Nine service providers contributed to this process.
BIRTH OF CACH AND HOME RUN: THE CAPITAL AREA’S 10-YEAR PLAN TO END HOMELESSNESS
Since 2000, CACH has been the planning body for both the County of Dauphin and the City of Harrisburg in order to qualify for the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Continuum of Care funds. In November 2007, the County and the City formally selected CACH as the lead entity for the implementation of “HOME RUN: The Capital Area’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.” Blueprint Implementation Team is charged with this and other tasks. In accordance with these charges, CACH provides a system-wide planning process, coordinates services, improves the efficiency and effectiveness of services, maximizes cost-effectiveness, submits the application for HUD Continuum of Care funding, manages the Homeless Management Information System, and other dues as more clear detailed in “HOME RUN.”
Since then, the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness (CACH) has been an all-volunteer community collaboration to improve coordination and attract resources to support services to individuals and families who are homeless. As all-volunteer collaboration, no one organization had to bear the full costs for the operation of the collaboration. Examples of financial savings include meeting room, printing and other organizational costs. In addition, an annual Point In Time (PIT) survey is conducted. CACH was formed to develop and deliver a cooperative, coordinated and inclusive system of high quality services and shelter for the homeless. CACH was chaired by the Executive Director of the Harrisburg Foundation and now currently by the Director of the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority. The Data Committee is charged with the responsibility to develop a system for collecting data on persons and families who are served by the system. The Data Committee was chaired by the Director of Volunteers of America and currently is chaired by the staff of Brethren Housing Association (BHA). The Services Delivery Committee is charged with coordinating and integrating services for the homeless. The Services Delivery Committee was chaired by the Director of the Shalom House, a transitional housing program for women. It is currently chaired by the same staff member at BHA. The Services Delivery committee coordinated its efforts with that of PESSH. PESSH was a separate organization whose focus is coordination of services at the case manager level within service provider agencies. PESSH was not as inclusive a group as CACH, but provides an opportunity for direct contact between providers. Service Delivery and Data Collection Committee are not combined. The mission of the Planning and Resource Committee is to develop funding sources and plan for future services. The Planning and Resource Committee was chaired by the Director of Delta Housing, a private, for-profit housing developer. The Education and Public Information committee is responsible for public outreach and is currently chaired by a volunteer.
CACH AND HUD CONTINUUM OF CARE FUNDING
In identifying funds for these services, CACH realized it was losing out to receive approximately $1 million of federal funding. The result of the process was a Consolidated Application, which includes the Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Plan and Funding Applications from five different agencies, submitted to HUD in May 2001. The 2001 Continuum of Care was approved by Harrisburg Mayor Stephen R. Reed and Dauphin County Commissioners, John D. Payne, Lowman S. Henry, and Anthony M. Petrucci.
As of 2014, $16,408,381 HUD Continuum of Care funding was successfully awarded; $3,657,971 matched those funds and $9,827,078 was leveraged.
OPERATIONS AND LEADERSHIP
The management structure for CACH was developed very consciously to ensure participatory leadership and involvement of all stakeholders in the planning and implementation of services to homeless individuals and families in our community. For the first seven years of its existence, CACH was governed by “Operating Rules and Procedures” that described the coalition’s structure, decision-making process, leadership selection and transitions, standing committee process and operation methods. These operating rules eventually evolved to become the formal organization By-Laws and Articles of Incorporation when CACH decided to become a formal 501(c)(3) organization. Since its creation, the Operating Rules and Procedures have served the coalition well and have needed minimal change and up dating.
From the earliest days of the coalition, it was important to the membership and stakeholders that individual voices be heard and that everyone be given an opportunity to be actively involved in the coalition’s work. CACH’s structure ensures through its regular bi-monthly general membership meetings that everyone has an opportunity to speak on established agenda items as well as emerging needs and gaps in service. This opportunity to speak is governed by a formally adopted Code of Conduct that ensures that everyone can be heard, and is treated with respect regardless of their position in the community or the coalition. In addition, the structure allows all interested individuals to engage in specific activities that advance the work of the coalition. Since the coalition largely operates with one paid staff, it is necessary that all members of the coalition actively participate in its work. This further requires the coalition’s leadership to continually monitor activities and promote accountability and transparency in all coalition endeavors.
Benefits to CACH include financial savings in meeting rooms, printing, supplies and other organizational costs. The annual Point In Time (PIT) survey is conducted by the collaboration providing valuable data for all providers without having to incur the costs as an individual agency. CACH has since hired one staff but does not have to invest resources in physical infrastructure.
This necessitates a strong and committed collaborative leadership that ensures strategic planning, task assignment, and accountability.
CACH was incorporated in Pennsylvania as a non-profit corporation on August 28, 2007, and obtained IRS designation as 501(c)(3) organization. The incorporation of CACH allows the organization to expand its funding base and access new resources to support ten-year plan to end homelessness.
CACH submits an annual report to local public officials and the community reporting on our ten-year plan to end homelessness, called the Consolidated Plan. This annual report is a measurement of our success. As noted in the above chart, CACH participated in the increase in beds and units available to homeless people.
Additional committees include the Homeless Prevention Committee and Housing. The Housing committee is charged with preserving existing resources and ensure the development of new, safe, decent, affordable housing opportunities for all homeless individuals and families. Homeless Prevention committee is developing short and long term strategies to significantly prevent the occurrence of homelessness in our community.
PROJECT HOMELESS CONNECT
In 2010 CACH held its first Project Homeless Connect (PHC). PHC is a one-day community-wide event for one-stop services for housing, support, and quality of life resources. Its goal is to connect with our community members who are homeless, create a relationship and ideally, end homelessness for these guests.
In the five years of holding PHC, it has been city/county and community-led and consumer-centric. We garnered the support of area business, corporations, universities, area agencies and hundreds of volunteers. Case management to our guests is provided following Project Homeless Connect. The event is outcome-oriented resulting in an average of 300 guests served. Health screenings, photo identification, social security cards and applications are provided. Breakfast and lunch is served and take-a ways including food are provided.
SOCIAL MEDIA, MARKETING & PROMOTIONS
CACH worked with a web designer and developed a website in 2010. We then joined the community in the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community in 2012. These activities launched a public awareness campaign that include a social media presence on Face Book, Twitter, and WordPress. The community walk raises funds for CACH’s general fund and introduced the public, other agencies and area businesses to the work of CACH.