The recent issue of The Journey, the biannual newsletter of Joseph & Mary’s Home, features a cover article about our partnership with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) and how it brings care to those experiencing unsheltered homelessness. The newsletter also has a recap of the very successful Perseverance in Hope 2023 Benefit Luncheon, a staff spotlight on Medical Director Dr. Michael Seidman, a donor spotlight on a former intern, and news updates.
Below is the text from the cover story. Read the complete newsletter here.
Partnership with NEOCH Brings Care to Those Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness
On any given day, there are almost 600,000 people experiencing homelessness across the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It’s estimated that more than half of this population lives unsheltered. That means their primary nighttime residence is a place not suitable for human habitation (e.g., a city sidewalk, vehicle, abandoned building, train or bus station, or park).
In Northeast Ohio, there are hundreds of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Living unsheltered can greatly impact a person’s health and safety, which is why the work done by organizations like the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) is so important.
Since 1988, NEOCH has sought to break the cycle of homelessness in Northeast Ohio. NEOCH works to eliminate the root causes of homelessness while providing love to the diverse community it serves through organizing, advocacy, education and street outreach.
Joseph & Mary’s Home has a close partnership with the NEOCH Street Outreach team to build relationships and trust with adults who need a safe place to heal from illness or injury.
The NEOCH Street Outreach team specializes in helping people experiencing unsheltered homelessness access the basic resources they need to survive and, eventually, find adequate housing. Beyond basic resources like food, clothing and personal hygiene items that the team provides on a daily basis, a medical team accompanies them in the field once a week to provide basic healthcare services and access to additional care. The medical team includes Michael Seidman, M.D., who also serves as the medical director at Joseph & Mary’s Home.
During a recent visit, the NEOCH Street Outreach medical team checked on a woman who was living in a tent on a vacant lot next to a home. They helped schedule a follow-up appointment with her primary care physician and discussed an upcoming virtual disability hearing to make sure she had internet access on her phone. With winter coming, they provided a tarp to better insulate her tent from the damp ground. The end goal is to help her access housing before the weather becomes dangerous.
“There are many reasons people are unsheltered. They might not feel safe in a shelter or a couple doesn’t want to be separated,” said Liam Haggerty, NEOCH director of street outreach. “We meet people where they are and where they feel safe to first help them meet their basic needs while also offering immediate shelter. If that’s not for them, we work to build relationships over time and connect them to medical and behavioral health care and other services along the way with the goal of eventually connecting them to housing.”
NEOCH can refer clients to Joseph & Mary’s Home as part of the Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Continuum of Care network. If they identify someone with medical needs, Dr. Seidman talks to them about Joseph & Mary’s Home and how it is a safe place to heal. If someone is a good fit, the NEOCH Street Outreach team will often bring them for a visit and a meal.
“A visit usually leads to that person agreeing to come here to get the ongoing care they need,” said Raven Lugo, respite care manager at Joseph & Mary’s Home. “NEOCH works with some of the most vulnerable people who could die in the streets. They are great at engaging and drawing people out to provide the help they need, people who would otherwise stay in the shadows. We really value our partnership.”
James, a current resident who is in his late 50s and has been unhoused for more than a year and a half, came to Joseph & Mary’s Home after being hospitalized from an assault. “I am grateful to Joseph’s Home where I feel safe,” he said. “I got a bad heart condition and am recovering from a stroke. Feeling safe makes a big difference for my condition.” James is on the list for permanent supportive housing and hopes to have an apartment by Christmas.
A Growing Need
Liam said the medical need continues to grow as the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness also grows – and the reality is that there are barriers to receiving care. He said that because some highly vulnerable people aren’t going to shelters or accessing traditional resources, they are disconnected from the safety net system that would refer them to a nursing home, a hospital or medical respite.
“Being outside is terrible for someone with an acute medical condition or a chronic condition who needs stabilization. Knowing that there’s an option if we identify someone who might be a fit and we can make a warm handoff and know that they are going to be safe until a permanent housing solution becomes available is really important,” said Liam. “Joseph & Mary’s Home is a perfect resource.”
Partnerships Offer Win-Win Situations
The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) is one of many important partners for Joseph & Mary’s Home. Partnerships offer a source of referrals to ensure those who need help the most can be connected to it. On the flip side, Joseph & Mary’s Home serves as a valuable resource for the organizations making the referrals as the only homeless services provider in Northeast Ohio focused on medical respite.
When a referral is the right fit, Joseph & Mary’s Home then offers case management to identify each individual’s unique needs. We collaborate with 50+ partners to meet them, working closely together to ensure no one falls through the cracks and we are able to maximize each of our resources.
Other examples of key partnerships include:
- May Dugan Center – behavioral health assessments
- Better Health Partnership Pathways HUB as a Care Coordination Agency
- Legal Aid Society of Cleveland Medical Legal Partnership – helping people with civil legal matters
- ID Collaborative – assistance with obtaining identification
- EDEN – assistance with housing vouchers and permanent supportive housing
- The Gathering Place – support groups for people living with cancer
- AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland – access to resources and support for persons living with HIV/AIDS
- Veterans Affairs – housing and health services for veterans