Decembery  2015


Coming Home’s Homes for the Homeless program is intended to serve as a single point of entry for housing projects. To recap, the program pursues a Housing First strategy, providing homeless households with housing coupled with wrap-around services to set them on the path to self-sufficiency.  We work with a team of developers to both push projects to market and is pulled into projects by affordable housing developers.
With the counsel of the Board Accessibility Committee, Coming Home is currently working to identify the housing needs of the homeless population and is pursuing several opportunities for housing the homeless.
101 Zebra Way
Following several critical conversations with funders, we have determined that the project will house 5 Chronically Homeless (CH) households and 7 “Hardship Homeless” (HH) households. Working with joint venture partner BCUW Madeline Housing Partners, we have completed applications for funding from HMFA’s Sandy Special Needs Housing Fund, the County’s Housing First Capital Fund, and New Brunswick’s HOME Investment Partnership program.  The joint venture will soon submit site plans for approval. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring of 2016.
Housing the Hardship Homeless-The Triple H Report
Our efforts to designate apartments in the Zebra Way development for the Hardship Homeless resulted in the preparation of a special report on this category of the homeless population. The Triple H Report contains summaries of several surveys and studies, the results of which indicate that homelessness in Middlesex County largely stems from economic and financial factors. A large portion of the homeless population has earned income insufficient to pay market rate housing costs, but also disqualifies them from MCBOSS services. The Triple H Report recommends developing mixed-population projects that target both the CH and the HH, the latter of which can often afford rents ranging as high as $300-$600 including utilities. There are sometimes vouchers available to assist the CH, which helps finance the project as a whole and the creation of such projects also meets the social goal of not isolating persons with disabilities from those without. A copy of the report is available upon request

We have identified a property located in Sayreville that could serve as a project for housing and employing the homeless. The property consists of a bakery kitchen and store front and extensive residential space.  We are seeking partners to reactivate the bakery as a business, offering employment to the homeless and to convert the residential space into three apartments for the homeless. The Borough of Sayreville has responded positively to the idea, and Coming Home has received expressions of interest from several developers and other non-profit partners.
Potential Development in Old Bridge
A land owner has generously offered to donate development rights at a site in Old Bridge to Coming Home for the purpose of developing housing for the homeless. The site is one of several lots located adjacent to the Old Bridge municipal complex that the owner will sell to a private developer for development into a mixed-use project. We must research the technicalities of undertaking a housing project with development rights starting at the second floor, rather than with ownership of the land. The same landowner has indicated that there is potential for selling two plots of land at two properties located in South Brunswick to Coming Home at a steeply discounted price.
The Abandoned Properties Partnership Program
Coming Home has reached out to County municipalities to explore the possibilities of partnering to put abandoned properties back to productive use. We hope to convince municipalities to employ State enabled legal tools for dealing with abandoned properties and connect municipalities with our developer partners to convert properties into affordable housing for the homeless. No municipality has yet agreed to the idea of fully employing the available legal tools, which requires passing a municipal ordinance in order to create an abandoned properties list. However, several municipalities, including South River and Edison have agreed to help us identify abandoned or vacant properties and assist Coming Home in acquiring these properties and converting them into housing. This effort has yielded numerous single-family homes that could potentially be developed into shared housing. Copies of our presentation to municipalities is available upon request.
for the Homeless
1 As illustrated in the 2015 PIT Data Analysis and The Triple H Report, the cause of homelessness for many in Middlesex County is economic in nature.  Therefore, part of the effort to end homelessness must address the need for more and better employment opportunities.
 In astute recognition of this, the Board’s Sustainability Committee has devoted much of its efforts towards doing so. Together with staff, the Committee has successfully established a partnership with NJ Employment Services and the Middlesex County Dept. of Workforce Development. Homeless adults are offered individualized assistance with: registering on the State’s job database; searching for employment opportunities that match their skills, and learning about additional services in a small classroom setting at the One Stop Career Center.
 The goal of the initiative is first to encourage and support the homeless individuals to be able to comfortably utilize the host of services available to them at the One Stop Career Center, and secondly, to find employment that will lead to self-sufficiency and an end to their homelessness.  To date, 18 individuals have participated in this initiative.  The next session is scheduled for December 16, 2015.
In addition to the partnership with Employment Services and the County Workforce Development, the Sustainability Committee is also pursuing larger local employers to begin an initiative to reduce barriers to employment and create on-the-job training opportunities for homeless adults.  This component is being piloted with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, with the goal of expanding to additional employers, including the Heldrich Hotel.

Coming Home launched a photography club/contest this year, which culminated in the announcement of the winner at our first fundraising event in October. The idea was to offer an artistic outlet to those experiencing homelessness which would both allow them to express themselves artistically and enhance their sense of community belonging at this difficult time in their lives. Doing so, it was envisioned, would help build morale and confidence, attributes needed for healthy, happy living. We sought the participation of Catholic Charities for access to their shelter residents and the RU Mason Gross School of Arts for their expertise in the art of photography. (A big thanks to student, Liset Clark). We also solicited and received the donation of 12 cameras, 6 from Olympus and 6 from Fujifilm.
Participants attended 3 workshops run by the RU students, who instructed the participants in use of the cameras and digital editing and development. They were provided opportunities to take photos throughout their community; enhanced their photography skills, and entered their photos in a juried contest. The winner received a Point & Shoot Camera and a framed copy of the winning photo.
The photos have been displayed at the Rutgers Mason Gross School, at the New Brunswick City Hall and will be traveling to Edison City Hall.
So, if you have the time we would love for you to pass by and view the photos currently being displayed at New Brunswick City Hall, and show your support.
The cameras are held for safekeeping for use in the next iteration of the Club. By all accounts, this program was a huge success and will begin its new session in a few weeks, offering the opportunity to other homeless persons.
Photos are available for purchase through coming Home’s website and all proceeds will go to the photographer.

Marketing / Fundraising
As you all know, we created a Resource Development Plan beginning with your work at the Retreat in June of this year and formally presented at our September Board meeting.  The plan sets goals, objectives and expectations of Board members to help raise funds to support the work of Coming Home and more copies are available at your request. Local government assistance has been available for much of our operating support and for creation of housing for those who are homeless.  State and federal money has also been available for housing construction and intermittently for the payment of rent through vouchers for those homeless persons who have disabilities. We need to supplement this funding to be able to provide: (i) rental assistance to the Hardship Homeless for whom we create housing and (ii) community-based case management to assist the newly housed reach their particular level of self-sufficiency.  The prevailing, evidence-based method of ending homelessness, Housing First, does not work without all three components of Accessibility (creation of housing); Affordability (rental assistance) and Sustainability (case management +). The Executive Committee, along with staff, has developed a Pipeline Tracker to be able to measure our progress in achieving the goals of the development plan.  It will be presented at the December Board meeting.
Our first event fundraiser – the Social Evening and Silent Auction – held in Perth Amboy on October 2nd was a success by all accounts.  Guests reported thoroughly enjoying themselves, which bodes well for attendance at future events and we netted $15,000. The Fundraising Committee decided to repeat the event next year in October 2016 and is exploring the prospect of a holding a golf outing in the spring.  We will discuss other fundraising ideas at the Board meeting.
As to grants, Coming Home staff has secured a one-time grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the express purpose of hiring of staff to begin the implementation of the County-wide Coordinated Assessment Initiative and to, in about 6 months’ time, pilot the community-based case management program.


The PIT, conducted annually, will be conducted this year on and around January 27, 2016. 
Coming Home will again serve as the PIT Coordinator for data and survey administration for Middlesex County.  CHM will conduct trainings and outreach throughout the month of January on the administration of the PIT survey, as well as analyze the data following the PIT, and help to organize volunteers for the host sites in New Brunswick and Perth Amboy.  Coming Home produced its own analysis of the 2015 PIT data this past summer. Doing so, permits Coming Home to identify discrete reasons for people’s homelessness and particular needs to end it. It has proven to be invaluable in our planning and discussions around homelessness throughout the year. For example, from the 2015 PIT data, we identified a total of 1,065 individuals (660 Households) homeless on the night of PIT. Of this total, 989 individuals (or 92.9%), including 356 children, were sheltered in Emergency Shelter, Transitional Housing, Hotel Placement or housing with a Temporary Rental Assistance subsidy from Welfare. Seventy-six individuals, including 2 children, were unsheltered. The data also: (i) indicates CH households made up only 11% of 660 household respondents and (ii) attests to the presence of the Hardship Homeless.
According to the survey, 22% of homeless households had an earned income. The top cause of homelessness reported by all survey respondents was “Loss of Job/Reduction of Income” (26.2%).  This information has informed our efforts to create affordable, permanent housing. (See Homes for Homeless section referencing the Triple H Report.) CHM’s analysis of PIT data gives us a real time indication of the housing needs in the County: we can discern with a reasonable degree of certainty precisely what type of housing (with or without support) and size (no.of BR) is needed in the County.
The 2015 PIT analysis also demonstrates a 28% reduction in the unsheltered population from 2014, and 24.7% overall reduction in homelessness from last year. Additionally, the past five years has seen a steady decline in homelessness in the County, with an overall 35% reduction since 2011. The full report and summary infographics can be found on the Coming Home website. 
        Tue, March 22, 2016 ( Annual Meeting)
        Tue, June 28
, 2016
        Tue, 27 September 2016
        Tue, 13 December 2016

  Upcoming Events

     December 15, 2015 8-10am
     County Administration Building
1st Floor Conference Room

Beginning in January, Coming Home will initiate a Community Education component to our programming.  Through our recent expansion and new initiatives, including Employment, Health Insurance, and Coordinated Assessment, we have discovered that there are many in the community who would like to assist, but require additional information and education about homelessness and community services. 
Coming Home, working with our partners in the homeless service community, will initiate a community education/training program in order to ensure that all interested parties are able to learn more about homelessness in Middlesex County including needs, programming and services available to meet those needs, as well as where the gaps in services may lie.


Through its participation in New Brunswick health planning initiatives, Coming Home developed and fostered a relationship with WellCare Health Plans of NJ to begin coordinating the work of the social service providers in the County with the case management work of the NJ Medicaid HMOs.  Poor health is often either a cause or an effect of homelessness as Coming Home highlighted in many iterations of its “Housing is Healthcare” proposal to the RWJF. Collectively, we have been considering developing systems of coordination with hospitals for our clients.  While hospital coordination has its place, the case managers of HMO are an existing system of health care case management with whom we can coordinate.
Part of WellCare’s policy is to invest in community partners, so when we met with them we chose to spotlight our Coordinated Assessment initiative, stressing that, as a new initiative, funding for it was not complete.  WellCare proposed that as a first step of collaboration we work to get our system of social service agencies to share the contact information of their clients with the case management department of the HMO so that the HMO can assist the member access needed health care in appropriate settings during their period of homelessness. All too often, during this time, the HMO loses contact with their member.  We drafted a client consent form and secured the agreement of the CoC social service agencies, using the form, to encourage their clients to agree to share contact information with their HMO. We affirmatively reached out to the other 4 Medicaid HMOs that serve Middlesex County to see if they were interested in collaboration and in the receipt of our client contact information as a first step.  We were successful in securing the participation on some level of all other 4 HMOs making our team of 5 complete.  Four of the 5 HMOs provided us with specific names, phone #s and emails of case managers with whom we will coordinate and the case managers from the 4 HMO's(United, the only outlier) have and will attend our monthly CoC meetings.
 This is a “win-win-win” situation: the HMO gets to help the client see a doctor instead of having to resort to the ER; the social service provider gets to concentrate on making social service connections (employment, child care, education) and above all,  clients/members get help accessing health care at this trying time for them.  All in our coalition of service providers are excited about the opportunity to work with the health care case managers for the betterment of the person experiencing homelessness. This is the beginning of health care/social service coordination on many fronts.
On November 9th, after a year of collaborative planning and with Coming Home as the lead agency, Middlesex County implemented a new system for addressing the needs of homeless persons called Coordinated Assessment (CA).  Coordinated Assessment is a two phase process.
The first phase screens homeless persons, or those at risk of imminent homelessness, through the NJ 2-1-1 hotline.  Hotline operators are trained to assess the situation and, where possible, refer the persons, as appropriate, to social service agencies, such as the Board of Social Services (BOSS) or domestic violence shelter, or divert them to stay with family and friends.  If the caller can’t be successfully diverted from entering the homeless system, they will be screened for shelter.  County homeless shelters will no longer have their own waiting lists: all will instead use one County-wide priority list, ordered based on someone’s length of homelessness and severity of needs, not on the chronology of the call. 
The second phase of CA, to be implemented before year’s end, will be prioritizing homeless people on the street and in emergency shelters, for placement in permanent housing.  All persons currently being served in the homeless system will be assessed and prioritized for the most appropriate housing situation for them.  That is to say, Chronically Homeless (CH) persons will probably require housing with supportive services and likely need a rental voucher, while the Hardship Homeless would likely be best served with short-term financial assistance and more limited support services, often referred to as “rapid re-housing.”  Homeless persons will be matched with the most appropriate, available resource.
The goals of the CA system are to minimize the time anyone in the County experiences a housing crisis and to prioritize available assistance, based on vulnerability and severity of service needs, to ensure that people who need assistance the most can receive it in a timely manner. A Coordinated Assessment system will also provide information about social and health service needs and gaps to help our broader community better plan its assistance and identify needed resources.
Coming Home has applied for funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fund at least some of the ongoing implementation of the CA process. This funding however will not be received until sometime in the first half of 2016. In order to launch CA now, as well as to soon pilot the needed, community-based case management program we have been discussing, Coming Home obtained a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We have used this grant to hire Alex Santiago, our CA lead.

Alex Santiago
Please welcome Alex Santiago who joined Coming Home this month to manage the Coordinated Assessment initiative. Alex comes to Coming Home with 10 years of case management experience with various agencies assisting different populations throughout the United States. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services from Boricua College in Brooklyn, NY and was chosen from greater than 30 applicants to fill the position. Alex currently resides in Monmouth County with his wife and 3 children.
Coming Home continues to receive referrals from NJ 211 for families and individuals who are homeless and want to work with a Case Manager towards securing permanent housing.
During 2015, more than 100 referrals were received by Ruth, Coming Home’s Case Manager. Specialized Information, referrals and advocacy were provided, as well as continued case management to qualifying clients.
 Sixteen families have secured permanent housing; others have been placed at the family shelter.
Clients that have been diverted from the homeless system continue to work with Ruth to secure a permanent home and resolve other issues that may hinder their ability to find a home.
With the implementation of Coordinated Assessment (CA), Coming Home has seen a dramatic increase in referrals for case management.  In the first 4 weeks of CA, referrals for case management have doubled in comparison to the same time-frame in 2014.  Not all of those referred will be managed by Coming Home, but we will need to keep an eye on this to see if this trend continues, which may require reassessing our services to accommodate the increased caseload.

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