New program helps find permanent housing for Peoria’s homeless men

PEORIA — In a first for Peoria, a multi-agency initiative aims to transition homeless men toward permanent housing and better health.

The Interim Shelter Program is driven by a donation of $117,000 by OSF Healthcare, which on Friday publicly unveiled the effort with partners the Peoria Salvation Army, the South Side Office of Concern, the Heart of Illinois United Way and the Heart of Illinois Homeless Continuum of Care. The announcement was made at the site of the new program, the Salvation Army Sylvia Fites Family Service Center, 414 NE Jefferson St.

The collaboration, which began last month, already is filling a gap in homeless services in Peoria, said Robert Brandfass, senior vice president for OSF HealthCare.

“It’s a very exciting development,” said Brandfass, who also is the chairman of the homeless continuum and a member of the United Way board.

In Peoria, homeless women, children and families can stay overnight at the Salvation Army Family Shelter, 417 NE Adams St., and Dream Center Peoria, 714 Hamilton Blvd. However, only the Dream Center has transitional programs to move residents to permanent housing and equip them with job and life skills. Neither organization admits single men.

Peoria Rescue Ministries, 601 SW Adams St., provides overnight shelter for single men but no transitional housing program. That is the hole that the Interim Shelter Program hopes to fill.

The program will be open for single men at the Salvation Army 24/7, with cots, meals, bathroom and bathing facilities, limited storage, a laundry room and phone and internet access. Most significantly, Brandfass said, the program will offer case-management services, on-site daily by the South Side Office of Concern, 202 NE Madison Ave. Case-management services will include:

Seeking permanent housing based on needs and finances.Address issues hampering access to housing, such as credit history or legal woes.Negotiating fair lease agreements.Identifying resources to help long-term well-being.

Brandfass said OSF HealthCare is investing in the project as a way to boost community health, as studies connect stable housing with improved health. Plus, homeless people with ailments and injuries often have no medical options except emergency rooms, thus increasing the workload and cost at hospitals. Permanent housing is a key step to addressing multiple health challenges, Brandfass said.

“Housing is health care,” he said.

The Interim Shelter Program quietly debuted Dec. 1, serving 120 homeless men since then. Ten already have been moved into permanent housing.

“It’s already exceeding expectations,” Brandfass said.

The OSF HealthCare funding is to cover the program’s costs this year. As the year progresses, OSF HealthCare will evaluate the program and decided whether to repeat funding in 2019.

PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at pluciano@pjstar.com, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.

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