connect Winner / 2020
Union Station Homeless Services Community Allies Program
The Community Allies Program was launched in response to the isolation and loneliness reported by families and individuals we served as they settled into their new homes. The program seeks to increase housing retention rates, improve community connection, and foster community integration of currently homeless families and individuals in bridge-housing and those that are formerly homeless in permanent supportive housing by providing social and recreational activities and pairing individuals with a supportive community volunteer ally.
Has your proposal changed due to COVID-19?
Community Allies believes that creating opportunities for authentic human connection is more important than ever in light of COVID-19. At this time, we are prioritizing the safety of our volunteers and participants by cancelling all in-person activities until further notice. We have adapted programming and expanded opportunities for connection through new pilot initiatives such as “Phone Pals,” in which new friendships are facilitated over the phone. This offering has been especially impactful for Project Roomkey residents, who are highly vulnerable people experiencing homelessness who have been sheltered in motel rooms, and are thus extremely isolated.
Volunteer Allies who were already matched with participants before March 2020 continue to log volunteer hours by checking on their participants by phone on a regular basis, providing social and emotional support. Our team has also built an extensive library of virtual community gatherings/activities that has been disseminated across our networks.
Additionally, we remain committed to elevating the voices of those with lived experience through our LEAP (Lived Expertise Advisory Panel) Committee. LEAP members have currently or formerly experienced homelessness and serve in an advisory capacity to the board of directors and staff on issues related to service provision, advocacy, and policy. LEAP members have continued to meet virtually and are currently focused on advocacy efforts related to affordable housing.
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- San Gabriel Valley
In what stage of innovation is this project?Expand existing program
What is the need you’re responding to?
During periods of homelessness, people often become disconnected from friends and families. Once housed, it can be difficult to organically reestablish a network capable of providing social and emotional support. Research and Union Station’s nearly five decades of work indicate that formerly homeless people often experience persistent social isolation after moving into permanent housing. In a recent study, people who were formerly homeless cited, “disconnection and alienation in their neighborhoods” (Fields, 2010).
Through our Community Allies Program, we address this need by building a network of personalized care to help families and individuals currently experiencing homelessness or formerly homeless increase their likelihood of retaining housing and thriving in their new environments. By providing avenues for social engagement and community connections, our program facilitates a smooth transition into housing, furthering our work to end homelessness across the San Gabriel Valley.
Why is this project important to the work of your organization?
Since our founding in 1973, Union Station has remained on the cutting edge of the homelessness sector, pairing innovation with individualized services that meet people where they are at. The Community Allies Program is a key example of how we continue to be responsive and evolve our programming to meet the holistic needs of homeless and newly-housed individuals and families. Since launching the program in 2017, we have seen the immeasurable benefits of providing community integration and social-emotional support services including improved housing retention rates and feeling connected to the community. Union Station therefore seeks to expand the program to engage more participants and volunteers. Through our position as Lead Agency of the Coordinated Entry System for Families and for Individuals in Service Planning Area 3, and our successful record of adopting cutting-edge approaches, we are well-positioned to further advance the Community Allies Program across the San Gabriel Valley.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?
- Direct impact
- Indirect impact
Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.
LA County is at the center of our nation’s homelessness crisis with the largest unsheltered population in the nation. Union Station recognizes that addressing homelessness requires more than just providing shelter. Ensuring that newly-housed individuals have the resources and supports necessary to thrive in their community is critical to increasing housing retention. As a lead agency in our region, Union Station seeks to pave the way for wide-scale implementation of community integration services by expanding our effective, replicable model. In so doing, we aim to combat homelessness while making LA County a region where all residents have the opportunity to engage and contribute meaningfully to their community.
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.
Through the Community Allies Program, our vision for success includes:
- Serving at least 85 families and individuals in bridge housing or permanent supportive housing;
- Providing 50 new participants with community integration support services;
- Recruiting and training 30 new volunteer community allies;
- Sustaining engagement with 35 current program participants and 45 current volunteer community allies; and
- Creating 30 new successful matches and maintain those connections for at least six months (NOTE: some participants and allies are not immediately matched; we engage them through events and referrals to ensure they receive reintegration services as they wait for the right match to be made).
As a result of our work, we anticipate:
- 90% of participants receiving community integration support services will retain their housing;
- 80% of participants are satisfied with their new housing and neighborhood;
- 75% of participants will feel an improved quality of life; and
- 50% of participants will report feeling connected to their new community.
To evaluate the success of our Community Allies program, we conduct surveys using a quality of life indicator tool to measure outcomes for participants who have been in the program for at least six months. Additionally, our housing programs collect data from participants about what services they are receiving and housing retention rates, which is entered into the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) database.
Which of the connect metrics will your submission impact?
- Social and emotional support
Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?
- LA is the healthiest place to LIVE
Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?
- Access to the LA2050 community
- Host public events or gatherings
- Strategy assistance and implementation