07/15/2019

New Program in Mecklenburg County NC: Keeping Families Together

KAREN PELLETIER
Mecklenburg County Community Support Services

KELLY MYERS
Mecklenburg County Youth & Family Services

Mecklenburg County recently allocated $1M to Community Support Services to replicate the MeckFUSE model in a new program with up to 50 families participating. Called Keeping Families Together (KFT), this program is a model of permanent supportive housing. Designed in partnership with Corporation for Supportive Housing, KFT is specifically for a subset of child welfare-involved families who typically present with an array of co-occurring challenges. To date, KFT has proven to be a promising practice in improving child wellbeing and decreasing child welfare involvement among the most vulnerable families.

This blog post provides an overview of the program and its potential impact in Mecklenburg County.

WHY KFT MATTERS
Homelessness has significant negative impacts on families and children; these include family separations, poor physical and mental health outcomes and lower social-emotional and academic well-being. Children experiencing homelessness are more likely to miss school, perform below grade-level on standardized tests, and have a greater likelihood of dropping out of high school. A review of open child welfare cases in Mecklenburg County in 2015 indicated that families with housing instability had higher rates of co-morbidity such as domestic violence, involvement in the criminal justice system, substance use, and mental health disorders.

WHAT KFT DOES
To fully address the complex needs of families with recurring child welfare involvement; homelessness and housing instability; substance use disorders; and other co-occurring challenges such as mental illness; chronic medical conditions; and domestic violence; a long-term, comprehensive model such as supportive housing is needed. Supportive housing helps parents provide a safe and stable home for their children. Stable, affordable housing is also a critical component of recovery for individuals with substance use disorders. Moreover, a growing body of research suggests that stabilizing individuals in supportive housing can reduce their use of expensive public crisis services like emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, and jails.

NEED FOR KFT IN MECKLENBURG COUNTY
According to Point-in-Time Count data, on one night in Mecklenburg County, there were 535 persons in 167 sheltered and unsheltered families. In the school system, there were 4,598 students who were identified as experiencing homeless or facing housing instability at some point during the 2017-2018 school year in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. This includes 3,122 students living doubled-up with family and friends; 920 students staying in hotels; 434 students in shelters; and 37 students in unsheltered locations. Local child welfare and Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data found that in 2016 there were 114 unique families (almost 400 children and 147 adults) that were served in both homeless and child welfare systems.

SO, WHAT
Mecklenburg County is the first community in the country to link data from HMIS and Youth and Family Services. Like MeckFUSE, KFT is a model that is both data-driven and research informed. A “Housing First” approach and trauma-informed care are model components for supportive services, and are employed by KFT.

The goal of KFT is to improve outcomes for children by providing an affordable, caring, supportive, and secure setting for families. Families are provided with the necessary support and guidance to manage their lives and improve household well-being. Children benefit from stable communities, positive adult role models, and stronger family units.

Community Support Services released a Request for Proposal (RFP) on July 1, 2019. The RFP solicits proposals from non-profits to provide case management and enhanced services, as well as tenant-based housing subsidies, for up to 50 high-need families. Applicants must have access to, or a clear plan to gain access to, the appropriate housing units. Click here to learn more about KFT and the associated RFP, which closes in August 2019.

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