Social service advocates in Johnson County have been pushing for months for more emergency shelter options for homeless adults.
That’s still a challenge, but now the county has agreed to fund a new full-time case manager position in the county’s mental health center to provide homeless outreach services.
The Johnson County Commissioners voted Thursday to accept a $99,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will pay the salary of the street outreach case manager, plus provide some funds for transportation and emergency medical services for the homeless clients.
The position will be advertised immediately and should be filled soon, said Johnson County Mental Health Director Tim DeWeese.
“Many in the homeless population are difficult to contact because they have no permanent residence or telephone,” DeWeese said, adding that the case manager would concentrate on locating vulnerable individuals and getting them connected to available shelters and other services. He said the case manager may work with as many as 60 to 100 individuals during the period of the grant, through Aug. 31, 2019.
DeWeese said the case manager will collaborate with many community and faith-based partners who already work with the homeless, including the Salvation Army and the Johnson County Interfaith Hospitality Network.
DeWeese said this new position is a positive development but the county still needs more designated shelter space for homeless men and women without children.
Lee Jost, a pastor and social service provider in Johnson County, said the search for a building to house homeless adults on an emergency basis continues. He said he’s meeting in two weeks with a developer to consider some possible sites, but nothing is certain yet.
Even if a building is identified, Jost said, the project would need a business plan and ongoing funding support.