A $90,000 Community Development Block Grant from Cook County will allow Turning Point’s Behavioral Health Care Center to begin developing an innovative drop-in program for the homeless. Next comes the exciting work of identifying the full range of social services to be offered.
The grant money will be used to rehabilitate a 3,500-square-foot space in Turning Point’s existing building in Skokie. “By making the facility inviting and non-threatening, we hope to create an environment where members of the homeless population feel comfortable coming in,” says Turning Point CEO, Ann Fisher Raney.
In addition to providing an open door to the homeless, the initiative plans to help veterans, those who’ve had interactions with the criminal justice system and those one step away from homelessness. Plans for the space include a lounge area, laundry, showers and computers. The staff will potentially include a nurse, a psychiatrist and peer counselors who can offer advice and encouragement. It will be a place for the homeless to rest, take a shower, use the Internet and also be connected to professionals who can help them find job training, housing, mental health care and more.
“We’re hoping that the center will provide alternatives so that members of the homeless population can make positive choices in caring for themselves and their families,” Raney says.
When it comes to detailing additional offerings, she mentions the possibility of transportation to homeless shelters for meals or Medicaid dental service, but notes that it will depend on funding and the specific needs of the community.
“We imagine it as an evolving space that’s responsive to the community’s needs,” Raney says.
In fact, they’re eager for community involvement and engagement in the planning process. To that end, Turning Point is partnering with two Evanston nonprofit agencies, Connections for the Homeless and The New Foundation Center, in the creation of this program. Turning Point also plans to reach out to other organizations that might be in a position to offer program advice or communicate with those in need, such as local townships, libraries, homeless shelters, veteran centers and provider colleagues.
Hosting a drop-in program isn’t a new venture for Turning Point. The organization currently runs The Living Room, which they describe as “a comfortable, non-clinical space that provides an alternative to hospital emergency rooms for people experiencing a psychiatric crisis.” The Living Room offers therapist, nurse and peer counselor services free of charge—the same cost model planned for the new outreach program.
The groundbreaking for the new space is planned for this summer, with a fall or winter opening. This means that there’s plenty of time to get involved at the program’s inception. See below for opportunities to help.
How to get involved:
- Share information about the program with individuals and organizations that might benefit–for example, family members, your church or temple or local politicians and merchants.
- Offer monetary support. Turning Point has a “Solid Support” program that honors special donors and sends out daily informational emails with article links.
- Consider volunteering by serving on a focus group to help in the planning process or give of your time to work at the new center. Turning Point will offer training to anyone interested in getting involved.