End of referral hotline triggers temporary changes in access
Leadership of the Continuum of Care, a network of community partners charged by the federal government to help people with urgent housing needs, announced yesterday that it will no longer be able to take live calls or manage the vital intake process that connected callers with services. In response, Wake County’s Affordable Housing and Community Revitalization team is stepping up to ensure those on the brink of losing their homes or already un-housed do not fall through the cracks or get lost waiting for assistance while the community realigns its homeless response.
“On any given night, there are nearly a thousand people experiencing homelessness in Wake County, half of which are unsheltered and a third of which are families with children. We’re hearing loud and clear from them that the community’s access point to get help and services is broken,” said Wake County Manager David Ellis. “So, while we actively work with our partners to fix that entry process, we’re making sure our Wake County dollars are still flowing to the people who need them most.”
Previously, the access hub and its specialists would work with people in crisis and connect them with shelters, street outreach or temporary financial aid to best fit their needs. That hub was being staffed and run by the nonprofit Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness, which was the lead agency of the federally designated Wake County Continuum of Care. However, in June, the Governance Board of that entity notified the County that it was terminating its agreement with the Partnership. With the lead agency role vacant, community members are now working to find a new way to coordinate calls and issue referrals for services.
The CoC Governance Board controls $4.2 million in federal dollars designated to help reduce homelessness. Wake County Government also supports those efforts, contributing an additional $20.5 million through its own services or through its community partners. The County required all recipients who received its funds to go through a coordinated entry process facilitated by the access hub. But with that access hub no longer functioning, the County is now temporarily lifting that requirement to ensure the nearly $17 million in county dollars can still go to the people and providers who need them the most.
“We recognize there are incredible barriers to getting services in our community, but Wake County will not be another one by continuing to tell people to go through a broken system. We just can’t do that, so we’re making certain these county dollars are as accessible as possible for our most vulnerable populations,” said Wake County Housing Director Lorena McDowell.
In its communication to community partners yesterday, the CoC Board stated that as of today, August 1, its hotline will go to a recording as opposed to live specialists, and instead will direct callers to go in-person to agencies that might help them. Those in need can also call 211 or go to 211nc.org, click on “Basic Needs” and select “Housing and Shelter.” This will connect them to a list of providers closest to them, their hours and their contact information so they can reach out to directly.
Programs of note that will be available for direct access include:
- Wake Prevent!
- South Wilmington Street Center
- Cornerstone Case Management
- Rental Assistance Housing Program (RAHP)
- Veterans Homeless Services
- All County-funded community partners including rapid rehousing and emergency shelter service providers.
The Wake County CoC is one of 12 such programs in the state that receives funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The funds go toward street outreach, emergency shelters, homelessness prevention, case management, rental assistance for vulnerable populations, and other various services and supports for those experiencing or at-risk for homelessness. A dysfunctional coordinated entry process delays or prevents Wake County and its partners from spending these and other resources to immediately assist those most in need within our community.