March 06, 2021

Clarke County Homelessness Prevention Coalition is working to help the homeless and housing insecure

The Clarke County Homelessness Prevention Coalition is a new group made up of county resources including Clarke County Community Services, Crisis Intervention and advocacy, Clarke County Parents as Teachers through Clarke County Public Health and the Osceola Ministerial Association.

Individuals from all those organizations have come together to give not only hope but homes, resources and opportunities to Clarke County residents who are housing insecure, couch hopping with friends, or those with nowhere to go. The mix of individuals and their careers and experiences in their various fields make them equipped to assist people going through any trail including homelessness.

Mary Delong, of Clarke County Community Services works specifically with mental health and disabilities but also with general service. She and Shannon Harris, of Crisis Intervention and Advocacy who is the sexual abuse specialist were the first two to talk about forming a group to help with homelessness in the county.

“We thought about kind of getting a planning group together but we decided to just jump in and we sent out emails to everybody we thought would be interested and that’s how we came together,” said Delong.

“Even before we started the coalition all these folks were already working together with clients and folks from Clarke County with things especially with housing, we’d all kind of chip in. So I think it was a good core group we already had established and we just decided to focus a group on homelessness,” said Harris.

These various groups are known for their collaboration. They tend not to work in silos but have always had good relationships in order to better serve individuals and families in Clarke County.

The Homeless Coalition is currently working on a list of what various groups can do to help those in a homeless situation to give individuals a full range of their options. The Coalition has also made a list of rental properties.

“We put what all we can offer and what all we can do to on a cheat sheet so when someone who is homeless walks into our office we can better assess their need and refer them to the best place possible. It’s really allowed us to collaborate and work as a team to help people as best we can,” said Harris.

A big goal of the Coalition is to help people who are housing insecure in order to prevent homelessness.

“There’s nothing no anxiety inducing than being in imminent danger of not having a home,” said Rev. Dr. Al Adams, treasurer of the Osceola Ministerial Association. “So we want to make sure that people are not only not homeless but are also housing secure.”

The majority of the people who go to the Crisis Intervention and Advocacy Center are homeless or housing insecure. While that may not be the sole purpose for them going it certainly plays a big part and the Center has seen a big need for the Homeless Coalition based on their clients.

There are no statistics gathered currently on the homeless population in the county but the demographics span a wide range. Adam’s sees many senior citizens, three or four different seniors a week, who are in need of housing. Harris has seen mostly women with young children but that does not mean the male homeless population isn’t around. Many men and veterans don’t take housing assistance because they don’t want to take what could be going to a woman and her children.

“It seems like there are more women who ask for help but when it comes to males, those in the LGTBQ community, and those who are in minority groups tend to ask less for the help,” said Adams. “That can skew perceived statistics off quite a bit. You’re much more likely to ask for help if you think you’re going to get it.”

“People are safe from eviction until the moratorium ends at the end of March but when that ends they’re going to have to pay all the rent they haven’t paid. I hope people reach out for assistance so they can pay it because when the moratorium ends and they can’t pay it they’ll be at great risk for homelessness,” said DeLong.

The mission of the Clarke County Homeless Coalition is to eradicate homelessness from Clarke County and ensure that everyone has a place to call home.

To contact the Clarke County Homelessness Prevention Coalition search for their Facebook page send them a message.

Tyra Audlehelm

I grew up in Osceola and live here still with my husband and son. I graduated with my Bachelor degree in Journalism and Mass Communications in 2017. I have work at the OST since January of 2018.