Continuum of Care
The lead entity for Roanoke’s Continuum of Care planning process is the Blue Ridge Interagency Council on Homelessness (BRICH). This leadership group includes 21 members, drawn from the general public, 5 local governments, mental health programs, state and federal programs, non-profit organizations, businesses, public safety and colleges/universities throughout the Roanoke region, including a formerly homeless person. The BRICH serves as the facilitator and coordinator of our community’s efforts to ensure that homelessness in our community is rare, brief and non-reoccurring.
Members monitor the characteristics, situations, and needs of the homeless population, recommend the continuation of programs and/or development of new ones, and identify strategies on how to best coordinate and maximize our use of all available resources. This team is also responsible for implementing the process used to research, write and approve Roanoke’s CoC strategy. They monitor its accomplishments and sets funding priorities. The BRICH meets on a regular basis and ensures that the CoC planning process continues year round. Minutes of every meeting are filed and are available in Roanoke City’s Office of the Human Services Administrator as well as publically posted on this website. The City’s website also lists the Continuum of Care strategy and is available for viewing by the public. The City’s Human Services Administrator serves as staff liaison for the BRICH.
Roanoke’s Continuum of Care planning process is widely recognized as the community’s primary tool for addressing homelessness as evidenced by the active participation of numerous organizations and implementation of year-round planning sessions and activities. In addition, the CoC works on other planning strategies, such as our Consolidated Plan, ESG and CDBG allocations, and the United Way priority setting process. The CoC uses 5 primary committees to help complete the ongoing work of the CoC planning process and maximize the involvement and talents of as many stakeholders as possible. They include data and Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) Steering Committee; Reduction in Time Homeless; Permanent Supportive Housing; Employment and Income; Coordinated Entry and By Name List Committees. These groups work in tandem with other partner agencies to address homeless needs in the CoC’s geographic area that recommend and set policy priorities for the CoC.
By establishing these committees, our aim is to utilize the expertise of a variety of community organizations, and include cross representation from the BRICH and other committees. This approach allows us to include more people/perspectives, and to strike a balance between the distribution of work/activities and developing an integrated system of care understood and supported by the community at large. Roanoke City’s Human Services Administrator provides staff support to all the committees promoting focus and consistency throughout the overall process. Listed below is a brief outline of each component of the planning process.
The role of the BRICH is to manage and coordinate the CoC planning process year-round, and approve and submit Roanoke’s CoC Strategy each year for community funding. This group includes our broadest representation of valley-wide decision makers who have the ability to promote and implement our CoC strategy. Their responsibilities and activities include conducting/publishing annual shelter/street surveys; reviewing the shelters’ operations and system performance measures; identifying needed improvements among current services and development of new programs; organizing education and advocacy events; and facilitating ongoing coordination among federal, state and local programs.
Over the years, the BRICH has brought together service providers and utility company representatives to address concerns of homeless people trying to establish permanent housing; partnered with Radford University and the Jefferson College of Health Sciences to conduct shelter/street surveys and a special study on shelter accessibility issues; and served as the review committee offering recommendations on the allocation of ESG, HOME and CDBG funds. The BRICH was the energy behind Roanoke’s success in establishing a local Shelter Plus Care (SPC) program and the Homeless Assistance Team (HAT) which aggressively addresses needs and services to the homeless and provides outreach and access to permanent housing. The BRICH meets on the second Friday of each month at 9 am, with the exception of July and August, at the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission office located at 313 Luck Avenue in downtown Roanoke. With the exception of our annual funding allocation meeting in February, all meetings are open to the public.
Because of vacation schedules, during these months, BRICH work groups meet and make presentations at the September meeting. Seventy percent (80%) of the members regularly attend the monthly meetings and 90% serve on work groups.
The CoC Planning Committee is charged with writing the HUD CoC collaborative application for funding. Team members review current homeless data and trends; conduct the gaps analysis surveys; assess current services compared to community goals and strategies, and recommend future strategies and use of resources. This committee reviews policy changes at area shelters and provides this information to case managers.
The majority of members are Executive Directors of homeless service providers. As such, they have the greatest knowledge and wisdom of what programs have been successful and reasonable expectations for increases/changes in services given available community resources. Their participation ensures the strategies included in the CoC will be supported and implemented by direct service providers. Homeless and formerly homeless persons are added to the committee to provide input from the client perspective.
The group meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m. at the Council of Community Services located at 502 Campbell Avenue SW, Roanoke, Virginia 24016. Eighty percent (80%) of the members regularly attend the monthly meetings and 100% serve on work groups.
The HELPS committee is comprised of front-line staff who work directly with homeless individuals and families and primarily serve as case managers and engage the clients from the onset to verify homelessness, conduct intakes and make referrals. The purpose of this committee is twofold. First, the committee provides a forum for the exchange of information so service providers remain up-to-date on available services, resolve issues around referrals and hard-to-serve clients, and transition as many homeless persons as possible to permanent housing. Secondly, this committee helps to facilitate partnerships among service providers that concentrate on the unique needs of homeless sub-populations.
Through these efforts, we maximize our use of available resources while avoiding duplication of effort. Members review program data on client needs and outcomes, and identify gaps in services, ways to improve the effectiveness of current services, and strategies for securing adequate financial resources to sustain their programs. The HELPS Committee reports its findings and recommendations for services to the CoC Planning Committee and BRICH, which uses them to help develop our CoC goals, priorities and strategies. Additionally, this committee has worked toward the establishment of agreements among all providers that identify referral patterns, specialized services, collaborative case management services, and system-wide client outcome measures. They also provide leadership for our ongoing public relations efforts that explain the needs of the homeless and advocate for programs and activities that alleviate chronic homelessness.
The meetings are open to any interested persons, and staff from various agencies/programs often attend the meetings to participate in specific discussions and presentations. At each meeting structured programs and impromptu announcements inform and report individual organization’s activities and issues confronting their clients. Members exchange information by email as well. Fifty-5 percent of the members regularly attend the monthly meetings.