“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress.” ~ Jean Vanier
It’s no secret that cases of homelessness and panhandling have risen in central Arkansas over the past few years. In fact, it has become such an issue in our community that membership in the Arkansas Homeless Coalition (AHC) has risen exponentially over the past few months. The AHC also recently partnered with the Central Arkansas Reentry Coalition (CARE) and the Central Arkansas Team Care for the Homeless (CATCH) to present a forum for Little Rock mayoral candidates to answer questions regarding homeless and reentry issues (You can read that blog post here).
In 2017, CATCH orchestrated a tally to capture the number of people in the greater Little Rock area experiencing homelessness, revealing a count of approximately 990. Of that number, around 550 people were without shelter[i]. Because of the recent growth and the activism put forth by the coalition of homeless organizations, Good Grid offered to partner with AHC to increase their capacity in central Arkansas.
Earlier this summer, individuals in the AHC worked with Vice Mayor Kathy Webb and Assistant City Manager James Jones to begin a conversation around how to identify available services and fill the gap of needed services for those experiencing homelessness. During this conversation, they quickly realized that the lines of communication between people experiencing homelessness, service providers and Little Rock government needed to be open and welcoming. To begin tackling this issue, the group created a survey to determine which interventions would be the most beneficial to them.
Over the next few weeks, they worked to gather answers from the survey, compiled the data and presented it at the next AHC workgroup meeting. Based on the information collected, AHC created workgroups focusing on the specific needs highlighted in the survey responses:
Members of the AHC, who are already leading successful homeless programs in Little Rock, stepped up to facilitate these workgroups. The groups began to meet for the first time in September.
The purpose of the workgroups is to “identify existing resources, define gaps in services, and begin the work of creating ways to fills those gaps” (Sandra Wilson, AHC President). Wilson also included that, “The effort has an overall goal of creating a broad collaborative network to provide comprehensive wrap-around services ensuring a wide range of options in assistance for persons experiencing homelessness.”
We believe that Good Grid software has the ability to foster that collaboration between similar agencies while coordinating those wrap-around services to our most vulnerable community members.
Because Good Grid offers a platform for providers to display their program information and available services in communities, it was a natural fit to include in the workgroups. Good Grid has over 13,000 records of providers and services in Arkansas that populate the online search directory. The plan for the AHC workgroups is to identify which resources Good Grid already included on the system, confirm the information on the organizational pages are correct and create new pages with important resource information to fill in the gaps.
To do this, every member of the AHC was invited to attend a Good Grid training.
AHC members gathered at Goodwill Industries of Arkansas on October 23rd, to complete a 1-hour Good Grid training. The training consisted of learning how to create accounts, navigate the search directory, update information and create new organizational pages. In addition to updating current pages and creating new ones, Good Grid applied a blue “verified” check to each organizational page that was included in the AHC project. This helps users identify which pages in the search directory have verified information from Good Grid so they can be sure they are accessing the most up-to-date resources available.
Bringing organizations with similar missions together to help people experiencing homelessness proved to be beneficial to the community after analyzing the results of the training. With the help of the providers in the AHC, we were able to create new pages for organizations represented at the training as well as increase the number of claimed organizational pages.
The next step is for Good Grid to verify pages associated with the AHC so they can be identified with a blue verified check for users as a result of this training and partnership.
Sign up today at www.goodgrid.com, create a page for your organization and update your service information.
If you are interested in attending a Good Grid training, contact our Outreach and Training Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up!
You can also check out the Arkansas Homeless Coalition Good Grid page to stay updated on monthly meetings and the progress they are making in the workgroups.
[i] Pettit, E. (2018, March 15). Homelessness focus of forum; Little Rock hopefuls call for change [Editorial]. Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Retrieved October 12, 2018, from https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2018/mar/15/homelessness-focus-of-forum-20180315/