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El Paso Coalition for the Homeless
The El Paso Coalition for the Homeless (EPCH) is a membership-driven alliance that was created to develop resources and help support the El Paso Continuum of Care (CoC) in its mission to end homelessness in our community. The CoC is comprised of numerous agencies, entities, and individuals that devote their time and efforts to providing housing, services, and additional support to those that are homeless. EPCH’s main objective is to analyze the programs and services that are being offered to this population and identify and address any opportunities to further provide the best assistance available. EPCH acts as the principal advocate in the community on behalf of the homeless and coordinates services for its member agencies. In addition, EPCH strives to ignite change and come up with creative and innovative solutions through research and collaboration with its partners. Providing education about the various needs of our community’s homeless population, as well as identifying the resources available to meet those needs is at the forefront of everything we do.

Causes: Homelessness and Housing

The El Paso Coalition for the Homeless is a membership driven agency comprised of homeless service providers, veteran organizations, and other non-profit entities. We are involved in several initiatives that seek to achieve the goal of making sure that homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring.

Homelessness Diversion

To continue its mission to prevent and end homelessness in the El Paso community, EPCH is piloting an innovative program intended to divert persons from entering the homeless system. This intervention/strategy is aimed at addressing the pertinent needs of households at the edge of homelessness by enabling them to identify safe alternative housing, connecting them with services/resources, such as financial assistance that will help the household avoid entering the shelter or experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Shelters offer minimal safety/privacy, they often exacerbate trauma, having limited hours that many families object to as well as rigid rules/policies. Further complicating matters is the role a shelter plays in offering a temporary solution, not a permanent housing solution. Diversion reduces trauma, is cost effective, empowering, and takes into consideration the families’ choice to choose their available options. Homelessness Diversion can be a powerful tool and a best practice in decreasing the inflow of families into homelessness through creative case management, flexible financial assistance, and housing navigation.

Homelessness Prevention

This past year many individuals lost housing; others were at risk of becoming homeless because of the pandemic. For example, many left their jobs to care for children or elderly parents, some were immunocompromised, and others lost their job permanently. Due to the magnitude of these effects, EPCH has evolved and embraced the new role of a direct service provider. The key to this initiative is creating case management to help navigate the complexities of the social service network by guiding them to the assistance that will allow them to provide for themselves and their families. In addition to service navigation, EPCH has been able to build relationships with landlords, prevent eviction and allow the clients to stay in their homes.

Homeless prevention has allowed a brand-new family of three to remain in the apartment with their newborn baby. We assisted the family in applying for SNAP benefits and referred them to Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid for immigration assistance. The family was six months in arrears. Upon speaking to the landlord, she agreed to allow the tenant to remain in the unit without moving forward to a JP eviction. We worked closely with the client and recommended that he look for full-time employment, and we would assist him by paying 50% of his rent for the next three months. Within 30 days, the client worked a full-time construction job and paid his portion of the rent on time. He will graduate from the program in November 2021.

This is just one of many households that we were able to prevent from becoming homeless as we strive to realign our homeless response system to prevent homelessness when possible and to rapidly house those who become homeless.

COVID-19: SUPPORTING AGENCIES AND THE HOMELESS DURING THE PANDEMIC

Too many people ask what the El Paso Coalition for the Homeless truly does. The question should really be what we don’t do. Before the pandemic hit El Paso, we mobilized our homeless service providers to find out what they needed then to keep their clients and themselves safe and we provided guidance on how to prevent the spread of the virus. We collaborated with El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank to ensure that those formerly homeless and most vulnerable to getting COVID19 were provided with weekly food boxes, so they did not have to leave their homes to grocery shop. To date, the El Paso Coalition for the Homeless, in partnership with El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank, local churches, and the El Paso Chihuahuas have provided approximately 1500 food boxes to formerly homeless clients, including veterans. To add, we worked with United Way and the City to get PPE, including facemasks, bleach, and hand sanitizer to those on the frontlines of working with the homeless, such as our Street Outreach teams, Emergency Shelters and Transitional Living Centers. We worked tirelessly with our Rapid Rehousing programs to ensure that people were housed as quickly as possible and those at risk of eviction, were provided with the funds to remain housed and safe. Finally, in late June 2021 we partnered with Punto de Partida, the El Paso Police & Fire Department, the VA, Emergence Health Network, along with several other non-profit entities to vaccinate approximately 40 individuals who were experiencing unsheltered homelessness. In addition to providing them with the Johnson & Johnson Vaccination, we also provided them with water, non-perishable food, and toiletry items. Furthermore, we offered them permanent housing options, including assistance with rent and security deposits.

The El Paso Coalition for the Homeless has shown that even in the midst of a pandemic that we are not slowing down because we know that those who are homeless depend on us to be the change-makers in their lives!

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Kory Caughie