Recognizing the important role that the Union Mission plays as both an intermediary in time of crises and as a solution for those who find themselves without shelter, the Mission strives to ensure that homelessness is rare, brief, and nonrecurring in our community.
In order to address these compounding issues and accessibility concerns, the Union Mission employs specific strategies which are designed to restore housing while simultaneously building relationships.
Engagement with Union Mission begins at first contact. As a Coordinated Entry site for Westmoreland County we are often the first contact people make when looking for assistance. Coordinated entry is a process developed to ensure that all people experiencing a housing crisis have fair and equal access and are quickly identified, assessed for, referred, and connected to housing and assistance based on their strengths and needs.
Through the Coordinated Entry process we work to leverage natural supports by engaging friends, family, and their community connections to determine if homelessness can be prevented. In addition, we provide connection to resources to aid with currently identified needs, linkages to emergency housing, and build bridges to other solutions that can provide permanent housing opportunities.
When homelessness cannot be prevented or diverted through engagement of natural resources, the Union Mission offers a connection to Emergency Shelter. For families and single women, this is a connection to a community partner. For homeless men, the Union Mission operates the only shelter program in Westmoreland County.
The shelter provides for the overall needs of our guests through a structured program that includes supportive services such as counseling, case management, life skills training, spiritual development, and education. The environment of the Union Mission fosters character development, morality, and bonds of friendship and family. Through these mechanisms, we are able to provide a “stepping stone” to help them reach their goals and return as productive, respectful members of the community.
As shelter guests transition back into community, the Mission also aids them in establishing appropriate supportive links, acquiring the necessary furnishings for their apartment, and in planning for the future (goal setting, budgeting, continued support, etc). The Union Mission provides 6 months of free counseling and on-going case management in order to help them in this transition.
Linkages to permanent housing opportunities and assistance in stabilizing people during this transition are critical components toward ending homelessness. As such, the Union Mission also utilizes Rapid Rehousing, Permanent Supportive Housing, and Shared housing strategies in our work.
Permanent supportive housing is an intervention that combines affordable housing assistance with voluntary support services to address the needs of chronically homeless people. The services are designed to build independent living and tenancy skills and connect people with community-based health care, treatment and employment services.
For many chronically homeless persons, the transition to permanent housing is best made in stages. It is hoped that after a period of engagement and stabilization, residents will be more willing to participate in services and referrals, and will eventually be ready to move to more traditional forms of housing.
To be effective, this intervention focuses on providing on-site supportive and supervisory services as a primary construct of a structured program within safe, stable housing conditions so as to allow for early adoption of healthy living practices. Once immediate housing needs are met, participants are better able to focus on the long-term changes necessary for maintaining stability. By offering these services we are able to provide an increased level of care which is not attainable in a traditional environment. The ultimate goal being to foster an understanding and adoption of skills needed to maintain success in permanent housing and aiding in the transition back into the community.
Rapid re-housing provides short-term rental assistance and services. The goals of this intervention are to help people obtain housing quickly, increase their self-sufficiency, and to promote their staying housed. It is offered without preconditions (such as employment, income, absence of criminal record, or sobriety) and the resources and services provided are tailored to the needs of the household.
By connecting people with a home, they are in a better position to address other challenges that may have led to their homelessness, such as obtaining employment or addressing substance abuse issues. The intervention has also been effective for those traditionally perceived to be more difficult to serve, including people with limited or no income and survivors of domestic violence.
Through a collaborative relationship with Trinity Lutheran Church, the Union Mission also offers a Shared Housing opportunity for Transition Age (18-24) men.
Youth homelessness is unique because young people are still developing. They are experiencing homelessness or are precariously housed for any number of reasons —abuse, family conflict, sexual identity, pregnancy or family poverty. They may be aging out of foster care. They may have become disconnected from family, school or work. They may be struggling with mental health and substance abuse disorders.
Youth who experience homelessness are especially vulnerable to criminal victimization, sexual exploitation, labor and sex trafficking or traumatic stress. As communities are creating systems of support for precariously housed youth and those experiencing homelessness they must take all of these different life experiences into account.
Shared Housing provides an intervention which focuses on providing safe, affordable housing, helps establish healthy and supportive relationships, both with peers and community members, and aids in providing an adequate transitionary time for residents to experience success in managing their housing while learning landlord/tenant expectations. All of these factors aid in future housing success during the transition to more traditional housing.