A Church-Based Approach to Ending Family Homelessness

Creating Neighborhoods First: What does it mean for Bridge of Hope locations who use PREP?

Perhaps one of the more challenging shifts for our network – as we move forward with the new Neighboring Innovation – will be the focus on creating “Neighborhoods first”.  For some locations, this is not a shift at all. For others, it will be a challenge.  Matching first has always been the design of Bridge of Hope.  Mentors, soon to be Neighboring Volunteers, are part of the three-way partnership.  As such, the Bridge of Hope program doesn’t truly begin until all three partners are in place.  As we increase our focus on the opportunities for Neighboring Volunteers to provide tangible support and particularly social capital (personal and professional networks that they might access on behalf of the family), “Neighborhoods first” takes on new importance.  Neighborhoods first may enable families to secure housing more quickly, as more people (both staff and Neighboring Volunteers) will be focused on the immediate need for housing. To call us toward this goal, one of our new benchmarks is to connect families to Neighboring Volunteers within 60 days of program acceptance (that’s an average of 60 days for all families connected per year). 

With this renewed focus on “Neighborhoods first”, PREP will no longer be a part of Bridge of Hope services.  PREP began as a short term case management period (up to three months) designed with two purposes.  The first purpose was to provide an opportunity for a participant and program staff to discern together whether Bridge of Hope is the right fit for the family.  The second purpose was to allow for time for training and equipping a mentoring group that was already formed for the family.  As recruiting mentoring groups has become more challenging, some locations have accepted women into the program in advance of having a church committed to even forming a mentoring group.  The result has been extended periods of time spent in PREP for families without the benefit of a Neighborhood of support or the social capital and resources they bring. 

As locations sign on to implement the new Neighboring language and program concepts, each will be committing to the original intent for Bridge of Hope Neighborhoods – that they be formed first, prior to accepting families. 

There will no longer be separate case management forms for PREP – just one set of paperwork with the Family Stability Scale adapted accordingly.  We will begin to track the initial case management session in order to understand through our data the full breadth of service provided, including support prior to Neighborhood Launch.  The time it takes to connect a family with Neighboring Volunteers will be measured based on the date of program acceptance and the date of Neighborhood launch.

There may be instances wherein program staff or a woman experiencing homelessness desire some time to discern readiness and fit for the program.  This is still an option.  However, the time taken for this discernment will be included in the average time it takes for a location to connect families to their Neighboring Volunteers.  So, for example, if a location connects three families with Neighboring Volunteers in a given fiscal year, and two of those families are connected within one month, the third family could have time to discern readiness for the program – up to 4 months – with the location still meeting the benchmark.

We recognize that there are many families currently in PREP awaiting their Neighborhoods of support.  There may be some “catching up” to do.  This will be a substantial shift for some locations, and we want to honor the need for transition time.  eTapestry will continue to track PREP data through March 31, 2018.  After that time, PREP will not be tracked in eTapestry. Locations may continue to utilize PREP until they sign on to implement new language and program changes, although we encourage you to consider not accepting new families into PREP from here forward. Ultimately, for all of us, the goal is Neighborhood Launch within 60 days (on average).  It may take some time, but it’s a goal we will aspire to together.  

We invite your questions about implementing this change.  Wendy Hoke Witmer will host a conference call to answer your questions:

Creating Neighborhoods First
Friday, March 10, 2017
1:00 p.m. EST
Dial: 712-775-7031, Access code:117348#