What comes to mind when you hear the word “home”?

Maybe you envision family dinners around the dining room table. Perhaps you picture your backyard during a summer barbecue. Or maybe you see a place where friends and family let themselves in the front door.

For the most vulnerable people in our county, home can seem like an impossible dream. In January 2019, Klamath Lake Community Action Services (KLCAS) data shows there were at least 45 homelesss individuals in Lake County. This number included people camping or squatting in abandoned buildings. It included people living in camp trailers with no water or power. The number also included couch surfers.

A team of partners including Lake District Wellness Center, Oregon Department of Human Services, Lake County Community Corrections, Lake District Hospital, and Lake County Veterans Services is looking for solutions to help this chronically homeless population. Many of them struggle with mental illness, substance abuse or drug dependency, interpersonal struggles, and other challenges that prevent them from remaining in their own homes. These people rotate through services in Lake County, costing taxpayers money. But without a safe, stable place to live, how can we expect them to address the underlying issues that are causing their chronic homelessness?

The Lake County team is exploring several options, from transitional housing to sober housing to permanent supportive housing. All of these options provide case management for tenants, which gives them the support they need to access services such as counseling, job and life skills training, education, and more.

The team has taken an important first step: It has been selected to join Oregon Housing and Community Services’ Oregon Supportive Housing Institute. Participation in this cohort gives Lake County preference when the team applies for capital funding to build permanent supportive housing units. Learn more about this opportunity on our blog.

Permanent supportive housing, particularly the Housing First model, has become the standard nationwide for alleviating chronic homelessness. Housing First is a low-barrier housing model that makes services such as counseling and job skills training available to tenants but doesn’t make participation in those services a requirement of residency. Tenants have case workers who check in on them regularly and help them connect to services, transportation, and more. Tenants must abide by a lease and can be evicted if they violate the rules. Learn how one Utah resident who was skeptical of Housing First changed his mind and became a champion of the model throughout his state. You can learn more about Housing First here.