Homelessness is a complex and persistent problem that affects many people in different ways. In Southside, a region of Virginia that has been struggling with economic decline and social challenges, homelessness is a stubborn issue that requires innovative solutions. A new initiative, called Southside Cares, aims to address the root causes of homelessness and provide long-term support for those in need.
What is Southside Cares?
Southside Cares is a collaborative effort between various stakeholders, including local governments, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, businesses, and residents, to combat homelessness in Southside. The initiative was launched in January 2024, after a year of planning and research. The goal of Southside Cares is to create a coordinated system of care that can prevent and end homelessness in the region.
According to the organizers, Southside Cares is based on the following principles:
- Homelessness is a solvable problem that requires a holistic approach.
- Every person deserves a safe and stable place to live.
- Housing is a human right and a foundation for well-being.
- Services and resources should be tailored to the individual needs and preferences of each person experiencing homelessness.
- Collaboration and coordination among all sectors and levels of government are essential for effective solutions.
How does Southside Cares work?
Southside Cares operates on a model of Housing First, which prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, without preconditions or barriers. Housing First is a proven strategy that has been adopted by many countries and cities around the world, and has shown positive outcomes in reducing homelessness and improving health and social outcomes.
Southside Cares also provides wraparound services and support to help people maintain their housing and address their underlying issues, such as mental health, substance abuse, trauma, unemployment, or lack of education. These services include case management, counseling, health care, employment assistance, education, life skills, and peer support.
Southside Cares works with a network of partners and providers who offer different types of housing and services, depending on the needs and preferences of each person. These include:
- Emergency shelters and transitional housing for people who need immediate and temporary shelter.
- Rapid rehousing for people who need short-term rental assistance and support to move into permanent housing.
- Permanent supportive housing for people who need long-term rental assistance and intensive support to live independently.
- Affordable housing for people who can afford to pay a portion of their rent and need minimal support to sustain their housing.
Southside Cares also engages in outreach and prevention activities to identify and assist people who are at risk of becoming homeless or who are living in unsheltered situations, such as on the streets, in cars, or in encampments. Southside Cares uses a standardized assessment tool to determine the level of need and vulnerability of each person and to match them with the most appropriate housing and services.
What are the impacts of Southside Cares?
Southside Cares is still in its early stages, but it has already made some progress and impact in addressing homelessness in Southside. According to the organizers, some of the achievements and benefits of Southside Cares include:
- Creating a common vision and framework for addressing homelessness in Southside.
- Establishing a coordinated entry system that streamlines access to housing and services for people experiencing homelessness.
- Increasing the availability and diversity of housing options for people experiencing homelessness.
- Enhancing the quality and effectiveness of services and support for people experiencing homelessness.
- Reducing the number of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Southside.
- Improving the health, well-being, and quality of life of people who have experienced homelessness.
- Strengthening the collaboration and communication among all stakeholders and sectors involved in addressing homelessness in Southside.
- Raising awareness and understanding of homelessness and its solutions among the public and policymakers.
What are the challenges and opportunities for Southside Cares?
Southside Cares is a ambitious and innovative initiative that faces many challenges and opportunities in its implementation and sustainability. Some of the challenges and opportunities include:
- Securing adequate and consistent funding and resources to support the initiative and its partners and providers.
- Expanding the capacity and availability of housing and services to meet the demand and needs of people experiencing homelessness.
- Ensuring the quality and accountability of housing and services and measuring their outcomes and impacts.
- Addressing the systemic and structural factors that contribute to homelessness, such as poverty, inequality, discrimination, and lack of affordable housing.
- Engaging and empowering people with lived experience of homelessness as partners and leaders in the initiative and its decision-making processes.
- Building and maintaining trust and collaboration among all stakeholders and sectors involved in the initiative and its governance.
- Adapting and innovating to the changing and emerging needs and trends of homelessness and its solutions.
Southside Cares is a promising and inspiring example of how a community can come together and take action to solve homelessness. By providing housing and support to people experiencing homelessness, Southside Cares is not only improving their lives, but also enhancing the social and economic well-being of the entire region.