Bridging the gap of homeless prevention efforts across counties

The Jackson County Homeless Prevention Alliance is growing in numbers, as more individuals come together eager to help those at risk of becoming homeless or currently faced with homelessness. Amanda Bernasconi, ESG Coordinator, Southwestern Youth Services, Inc., and Chair of the Jackson County Homeless Prevention Alliance, is not only on a mission to break down barriers between community agencies in an effort to join together and bring awareness to homelessness in Jackson County, but Bernasconi is also working to close the gap between counties.

As previously reported in the March 25 story, the mission of the Jackson County Homeless Prevention Alliance is to get those who focus on homelessness in the Jackson County area in a variety of ways, including those who have a genuine concern and willingness to help; together and working for a common goal. The common goal is to completely prevent and bring an end to homelessness in Jackson County.

“I’m excited. The Homeless Prevention Alliance, has already grown into something bigger. The people coming to the meetings are people that want to do something. It’s awesome,” said Bernasconi.

Being the Vice Chair of the Southwest Oklahoma Continuum of Care, Bernasconi attends the monthly meetings in Lawton, representing Altus and Jackson County, which according to Bernasconi has not been represented at these meetings in past years by someone actually working in Altus.

A Continuum of Care identifies all homeless and near homeless populations, gains understanding of their needs and then responds. The mission is to provide housing and services to reduce homelessness, by assisting homeless individuals, youth and families with children to move to self-sufficiency and permanent housing. The Continuum of Care includes: prevention, outreach and assessment, emergency shelter, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing or other permanent housing.

During the Continuum of Care meeting Thursday, June 11, representatives from several agencies in Commanche County, along with Bernasconi representing Jackson County, sat around the conference table sharing new information, expressing concerns and challenges, brainstorming answers and networking.

“One agency can’t do it all,” said Bernasconi. “Why not close the gap between counties, all work together to bring awareness and make some real changes to help the homeless. It is a real issue and unfortunately in Altus, it’s out of sight out of mind.”

An update for Altus is that the renovations for the Independent Living housing for homeless teens and the duplexes to serve as family housing will be underway on June 27. The businesses that have donated to the renovation project are Sherwin Williams, Martins Ace Hardware, Billy Walker Carpets, Fox Building Supply, Bedrock Nursery, Fox Building Supply and JAM Construction. Food will be provided for the volunteers. More volunteers are still needed. For more information contact Joanna Ramirez at 580-482-2809

Bernasconi invites anyone interested in knowing more about the Jackson County Homeless Prevention Alliance, anyone with a passion and concern for the homeless and near homeless to attend the meetings, the last Friday of every month. The meetings were formerly held at First United Methodist Church, Altus, but since the increase in attendance the group has outgrown that space. The meetings will now be held from 12 to 1 p.m., at City Hall.

For more information call 580-482-2809.

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