Place-Based Program Development
In many low-income neighborhoods, residents are isolated and often lack the resources and services that are more readily available in other communities.
When they do exist, resources such as affordable child care, health care, after-school programs, family support programs, job training and employment placement programs, treatment for addictions, and so on, are frequently fragmented and difficult to access. The ability to access vital community resources and services may be also be exacerbated by cultural and language barriers.
Many of the barriers include, but are not limited to, lack of information or lack of awareness of services, fear and mistrust of service providers, self-imposed barriers of pride and denial, transportation, location, child care issues, and cultural relevance. The challenge at the community level is to help remove barriers to accessing services, build partnerships to expand services that are lacking, and to involve residents of a community in the process. Targeted outreach, culturally responsive programming and adequate transportation services are additional elements for helping residents to access services.
Coordination of Services from a Neighborhood Base (Single Point-of-Contact)
While the concept is not new, in recent years neighborhood-based services has re-emerged as a vital tool for both poverty alleviation and neighborhood revitalization. Like service-enriched housing, place-based program designs integrate the resident empowerment process of community development with the individual case management approach of social services. This approach can provide low-income neighborhoods a cost-effective way to address barriers to service delivery, provide crisis intervention to those in need, and implement programs that enhance the quality of life for residents, while helping them to attain improved social and/or economic well-being.
Historically, this approach could best be conceived perhaps as a “one-stop” center with close similarity to a full “settlement house” type model at one end and, at the other end for example, simply one person perhaps at a desk in borrowed space of a church, childcare center, or a food pantry. At both ends, from simple to more complex, many variations can occur – yet each meets a vital need: helping people access services and resources that can help them strive to attain improved quality of life and social and/or economic well-being.
Through neighborhood-based services coordination, individuals are connected with resources and services that currently exist in the community but are not often accessible. As part of the methodology, a lead agency would work collaboratively with residents, community leaders, service providers and other key stakeholders to identify, prioritize and implement goals needed to improve social services delivery and the overall quality of life in a community. The approach targets the needs of the population at-large, not only those who are vulnerable, at-risk, disabled or with special needs.
Services coordination integrates the knowledge and resources of a “services coordinator” and collaborative relationships with human service providers. The “services coordinator” provides, at minimum, crisis intervention, resources and referrals for individual residents who voluntarily request assistance. The “services coordinator” also works on a community level to help remove barriers to accessing services, build partnerships to expand services to fill identified gaps and support resident involvement. Targeted outreach, culturally responsive programming and adequate transportation services are additional elements for helping residents to access services.
Neighborhood-based services coordination is a preventative approach as opposed to a crisis-oriented approach to human need. Services coordination from a single site or from multiple sites in a neighborhood can provide access to residents to such services as job training, mental health care, child care and substance abuse counseling before unmet needs escalate into bigger social problems such as crime, gang violence, drug use and homelessness.
Neighborhood-based services coordination should be considered a primary tool in housing stabilization strategies for vulnerable families.