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Homelessness in the Lancaster County has been a persistent problem since early 1980's with most affected families ending up on the streets. According to US government, there are two groups of a homeless persons; those that are sheltered homelessness and a second group comprising the unsheltered persons. Sheltered homelessness people are those living in emergency or transitional shelters while unsheltered homeless people are those who reside places deemed to be unfavorable for human habitation such as in neglected cars, sidewalks, abandoned buildings or even the streets. The definition of homelessness however excludes those who are able to pay rent, living in hotels or those living with their family and friends.
According to the State's statistics, there is an increased number of homeless people living in the suburbs. Women and children are the most vulnerable of the population facing this challenge. Of these, students are the most affected as this disrupts their academic system and education routines. They lag behind in education while others, due to the lack of access to technology to do their homework (United States, 2004) end up performing poorly in school. A correlation has also been established between poverty and homelessness, as many homeless people are poor, hence they cannot afford to raise money for food. Other factors have also been attributed to this challenge including: poverty and accumulation of massive debts, addiction to drugs, poor health or mental problems, unemployment, majority released from prisons with nowhere to go and families from broken home or those who flee domestic violence in their families (Tabor Community Services, 2012: Sachs, 2006).
To address this homelessness challenge, various organizations, mostly funded by churches, local communities, governments and donors, have came up with innovative ideas to avert the increasing rate of homelessness in Lancaster. The Tabor community service is among the organizations established to end homelessness in Lancaster county community. Tabor is a Christian organization whose main objective is to offer impeccable services to the community. The Tabor name is derived from the bible, and has been coined to become an acronym. It aims at providing decent housing and making part of Lancaster a desirable place to inhabit.
Tabor' Innovative idea
This organization came up with income generating projects to help low-income families, achieve economic sufficiency and family wellbeing. The innovative idea was creating a community homeless outreach center that targets homeless people. It offers a place to the homeless individuals to shower, wash their clothes, rest and even receive help through accessing human services. These services are available during daytime. The facility is equipped to serve more than 60 individuals weekly.
Tabor mustered support
Tabor mustered support from other partners who had a similar mission to create the Community Homeless Outreach Centre in Lancaster. The project belongs to the Interagency Council for the homeless while the Water street mission has contributed through the provision of space.
Tabor also identified the available assets in the community that formed the basis of its homelessness outreach activities trained facilitators to provide counseling, available space and the rule of law.
Goals and objectives
The community has clearly outlined goals and objectives that guide its operations in Lancaster. Its objective is to inculcate into people skills and inspire them in order to meet their housing and financial problems. They ensured that people learnt how to manage their finances through education and planning (Coates, 2000: Tabor Community Services, 2012).
Tabor activities are implemented through holding concerts and other public events to create public awareness on the increased state of homelessness in the community (Tabor Community Services, 2012). They provide accurate information about planning and management of money through budgeting, effects of bankruptcy and non- payment of debts, stable financial future for clients and setting up priorities which are realistic and achievable. Apart from providing decent housing, Tabor community services help in fighting racial discrimination. They believe it is brought about by force that makes the community not to peacefully co-exist (Burt, 2001).
This organization arranges a monthly workshop free of charge. Its action plan is rooted through running two types of programs; the in-house workshop program which is free of charge and the travelling workshop offered at a low cost. In-house workshop is a five standard course program incorporating budgeting, savings, banking basics, good credit and how to get it and loans. The courses are also divided into three: standard, elective and the last type is youth courses. Everyone is encouraged to attend from the community (Gray- Garcia, 2010). During the year, other significant workshops are set up. They hire trained, and certified professional helped the community in budgeting, debt reduction and even financial planning. These professionals can do budget analysis and give appropriate recommendations on how to tackle and manage financial crisis.
Tabor community services give free counseling to those experiencing housing and financial problems and those who have had debit and credit mismanagement. Financial education and planning reduces the problem of homelessness to a substantial percent and many families walk out with a solution of having permanent homes (Lister, 2004, Tabor Community Services, 2012). The counseling services are confidential to improve trust between the community that is affected and the Tabor community employee. Counseling sessions are free of charge.
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Another strategy used by Tabor to achieve its objective is through the implementation of a program called rental counseling to prevent homelessness is in place. It prevents cases of homelessness from arising by managing trivial cases before it blows out of hand. They offer solutions which are innovative and permanent (Wattenberg and William, 2000). Tabor community service helps the community in finding permanent homes by analyzing the budget of the one who is interested in mortgages. They give solutions on how they should divide their money in order to meet the target of having own home at the end of it all.
In 2006, Lancaster County Coalition to end homelessness adopted the Housing First program. The focus of this plan is to move Lancaster from a service system that manages homelessness to one that ends chronic homelessness and reduces all types of homelessness. The overall philosophy of the plan is “Housing First”. This approach recognizes that the basic needs of persons experiencing homelessness is permanent housing. Housing first emphasizes placing people experiencing homelessness in safe permanent housing first, and then ensuring their access to the services necessary to remain housed. This approach recognizes housing as a primary human need (NEAH, 2006).
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Housing first” is an approach to ending homelessness that centers on providing homeless people with housing quickly and then providing services as needed. What differentiates a Housing First approach from traditional emergency shelter or transitional housing approaches is that it is “housing-based,” with an immediate and primary focus on helping individuals and families quickly access and sustain permanent housing (LCCEH, 2012, para. 2).
In the past, the approach to those who are homeless has been to place them in a succession of emergency and transitional shelters, while providing them with a variety of services to prepare them for moving back into housing. Evidence across the United States and locally indicates that the most successful method to ending homelessness is to move individuals and families quickly to housing. The focus on funding emergency and transitional shelters rather than systematic solutions allows the problem to persist (LCCEH, 2012).
The objectives are as following, increase awareness of the need for affordable housing in Lancaster County. To build on the information obtained in Housing Element of Lancaster County Pennsylvania Comprehension Plan including; the development of numbers of who needs affordable rental units, for those earning less than 30% if median income, determining funding for each housing needs and determining the responsibility for obtaining that funding and increasing the inventory of permanent supportive housing for all people experiencing homelessness (LCCEH, 2012).
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The goals include, decreasing the number of people entering the shelter system, reducing recidivism of those exiting the homeless system, eliminating the discharge of individuals into homelessness from private agencies and public systems, including criminal justice, physical health and behavior health, eliminating the entry of youth aging out of systems such as, foster care, juvenile justice into the homeless system and lastly to prevent homelessness among veterans within five years (LCCEH, 2012).
Tabor's services are slightly different from those provided by other organizations. Other organizations provide food, clothing, bedding, laundry services and shower facilities daily for the homeless. Tabor however developed the provision of different services to neutralize those already being provided. It seek to offer permanent solutions by moving the homeless to permanent homes through offering services like housing and financial counseling, supportive housing and community development. Anyone who feels he or she is experiencing difficulty in debt repayment or family budgeting is encouraged to enroll into their program (Tabor Community Services, 2012: Levy, 2010).
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Ultimately, evaluation is done to ensure that the services offered are of exceptional importance and they are performing as required (Ronald, 2002). The evaluation of Tabor community progress has since established that the organization, through its outreach activities manages over 4000 families per year.
In conclusion, homelessness can be solved by increasing employment opportunities, developing permanent housing, which is affordable and ensuring that number of those suffering reduces to the latter.