For the last 30 years, Connections for the Homeless has changed continuously to meet the changing needs of those in the community who are homeless and at risk of homelessness. It has adapted to shifts in the economy and availability of funding. It has diligently sought out best program practices and adopted them as their own.

Three changes in the current programs for homeless single adults are underway as Connections makes the transition to a Housing First organization. According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, Housing First is an approach that offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individual families experiencing homelessness, and then provides the supportive services and connections to the community-based supports people need to keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness.

• The agency’s current EntryPoint program will expand its outreach component to send services out into other community institutions that serve the homeless, such as soup kitchens and warming centers. EntryPoint’s on-site drop-in services will be reserved for those who have expressed a desire to get off the streets.

• Connections’ shelter will morph into a series of scattered-site “bridge” units that will provide temporary housing – ideally for less than 30 days – until the agency can find permanent housing placement for participants.

• The first two changes will free up space at Hilda’s Place, where the agency will create a day program that focuses on employment, education and health services and provides more intensive daily services to help participants achieve self-sufficiency.

A statement from Connections said, “These changes continue Connections’ ongoing transformation into a Housing First organization that helps participants to move into apartments as soon as possible and provides intensive supportive services and case management until they can gain stability and self-sufficiency.

“The Housing First approach has proven to be more successful in housing homeless people than transitional shelters and is supported by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which guides best practices related to homeless services.”

The change to a full Housing First model is expected to be complete by July 1. The agency’s Chicago Avenue location, site of the new day program, will continue to be known as Hilda’s Place. And Connections said it expects the need for volunteers to continue and even increase with expansion of the Day Program.

The agency will continue to serve three meals a day to engaged program participants, run an active clothing and donations room, and continue the current tutoring programs. However, it will be seeking additional community members to lead new workshops and provide mentoring in basic employment skills, health education, literacy, adult basic education and life skills, as well as in recreational and social activities. People who are interested in learning more can contact Lisa Todd, community outreach manager, at 847-475-7070, ext. 211, or lt@cfthinc.org.