Dear Your Way Home community partners,
As 2018 comes to a close, I wanted to send a note to thank each of you for your commitment to one of the most pressing issues in our community- ensuring every Montgomery County resident has a safe and stable place to call home. I’m endlessly inspired by the hope and compassion that you exhibit in your work with some of our most vulnerable residents, despite what are often tragic and frustrating circumstances. It’s important to take a moment to remember that so many of our neighbors are celebrating the holidays in their own home because of you.
Our Your Way Home community has had a significant impact in 2018. As we head into the last week of the year I wanted to share a snapshot of that impact with you:
Montgomery County has experienced a 37% reduction in homelessness since we launched Your Way Home in 2014. This year alone, we have helped 152 homeless families move into housing, and a total of 430 formerly homeless families stabilize in their housing. We’ve provided shelter for over 600 residents and have allocated hotel vouchers so that no child or pregnant woman ever sleep outside in Montgomery County.
We’ve expanded our partnership’s focus to include strategies for preventing homelessness through two new pilot projects that launched this year. Our EPIC partnership with the Montgomery Bar Association and Foundation, the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities, Legal Aid of Southeastern PA, and the Montgomery County Courts, provides free legal representation and financial assistance to prevent evictions in Norristown. We’ve prevented 67 households from being evicted, or 76% of those enrolled, since January.
Second, we’ve partnered with the education system to better support at-risk elementary school children and their families. Through the Sprout Initiative, launched in partnership with the North Penn School District, Keystone Opportunity Center, and Villanova University, we are assisting families with school-aged children regain housing stability and support student success, with the goal of increasing children’s educational achievement through more stable housing.
As we shared in our 6th Annual Summit this past summer, our partnership has embraced advancing racial equity as a core strategy in ending homelessness. Through the HealthSpark Foundation, we’ve engaged a nationally recognized firm to help us conduct a Racial Equity Evaluation of our partnership, the first phase of which will be completed in early 2019. This initiative- which puts our partnership on the forefront nationally to take on systemic and structural racism in fighting homelessness- will transform our service system to better serve people of color and other historically marginalized groups.
We’ve created new collaborations with other sectors, advancing our mission to better align human services to meet the multifaceted needs of vulnerable residents. For example, our new partnership with MCIU Head Start prioritizes Your Way Home clients for their services, so that homeless families have priority access to this free, federally-funded preschool program.
Additionally, we’ve hosted community forums to increase information sharing with other sectors. Our fall Forum, co-hosted by the Montgomery County Commerce Department, highlighted Equitable Access to Economic Opportunities and discussed innovative strategies for overcoming systemic barriers to employment.
Finally, we know that none of this work is possible without garnering the financial support to continue it. Through the Your Way Home Initiative Fund, we’ve raised over $150,000 in private grants to support consumer assistance, research and evaluation, consumer engagement, diversity training, and other activities. We have also been awarded over $500,000 in new public funding to support our core programs. This is because we can continue to show that we are delivering high quality, responsive services to our residents.
I’d like to sincerely thank our Your Way Home Advisory Council members for their service this past year, including our outgoing Chair, Virginia Frantz of the Montgomery County Foundation, Inc. Virginia has been a steady partner and champion for us, building relationships with the philanthropic community and advising our partnership since its inception.
In 2019, we are thrilled to welcome our new Your Way Home Advisory Council Chair Joel Johnson, Executive Director of the Montgomery County Housing Authority. Joel’s leadership and knowledge in issues of housing affordability and access will be invaluable as our partnership moves towards embracing long-term solutions to homelessness prevention in the coming year.
I’d also like to thank our CoC Governing Board, as well as those of you who have joined us on our Action and Advisory Teams throughout the year. Thank you to our core partners- our call center, outreach staff, shelters, Housing Resource Centers, and numerous community organizations- who carry out our mission each day. Finally, to the Your Way Home Operations Team- it is truly an honor to work with each of you.
My best wishes for a happy holiday and joyous new year. See you in 2019!
Emma W. Hertz, MPA
Office of Housing and Community Development
Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services