Although the definition of Continuum of Care (CoC) can vary slightly between organizations, the central idea is fundamentally the same; to ensure ongoing care by guiding and tracking an individual through services and housing. The Mission began outlining its plan of action specifically to assist graduating clients in making the transition back to a life of independence smoother by providing access to more external opportunities. In addition, establishing long-term communication with former clients will allow the staff to adapt to social and professional trends, broaden the network of partnering organizations, and fine-tune program curriculum for increased efficiency. “We’re imitating this model because it’s a good idea, not because we’re seeking federal dollars,” said program director Scotty Colson. “HUD required a plan of action for individuals showing the things they were going to do. The idea was basically that if you just ran people through your program and sent them out your door, they would likely reencounter the same problems. So, it began in housing but has branched off into other areas like mental health and social work. The concept of helping clients after they leave the program is really good.”
Colson spent more than a year developing the Mission’s CoC initiative before it was officially implemented in August. The program incorporates five areas of concentration: job acquisition; housing; transportation; substance abuse care and, hopefully, regular involvement with faith organizations; and outcome. Several developments are already underway in an effort to bolster these areas of emphasis. The Mission is hosting a job fair at the AIDT Training Center in October in hopes of connecting more than 150 clients with upwards of 30 potential employers. The CoC program also recently began partnering with Driving Hope, an upstart charity that specializes in collecting and repairing vehicles it later provides to program graduates in need of transportation assistance. The nonprofit donated its first car to a former Jessie’s Place client in the summer in September.
“The goal is to conduct a longitudinal study to evaluate how clients are doing and to see where we can improve in how we assist them,” Colson said. “So, if we’re effective in helping them find housing and jobs, but they’re struggling with transportation, then we can address that. We want to do everything we can to ensure the long-term success of the clients.”