In Collin County a Nonprofit Collaborative is Tackling Homelessness Head-on

by Sabrina Corsiga, Special Contributor | November 5, 2019

If you live or work in the booming suburbs of Collin County, you might be surprised to learn that this part of North Texas is also facing a homelessness crisis. A 2018 census found that 53 percent of Collin County’s total homeless population were women, while children accounted for 33 percent. Approximately 3,000 of those turned away from homeless shelters in Collin County each year are single mom families, most with young children.

One Collin County resident, a single mother of two young boys, was recently unable to care for both of her sons because of health complications, which resulted in decreased hours at work, and ultimately, losing her housing.

But things started to turn around for this single mother when she got help from the Collin County Mobility Collaborative (CCMC). With their help, she was able to secure an apartment and reliable vehicle, live with both of her children, and continue pursuing her degree in medical technology.

Her newfound stability earned her a promotion at a new job, college scholarships, a spot on the Dean’s list and a full-time hospital position upon graduation.

The Toyota Impact Grant

CCMC is comprised of five nonprofits who came together through a million-dollar grant – the Toyota Impact Grant. The grant was created by Toyota and administered by the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas to encourage collaboration among nonprofits to address physical and upward mobility.

The collaborative includes Agape Resource & Assistance Center, Collin County Cares, Family Promise of Collin County, Hope’s Door New Beginning Center and Shiloh Place of McKinney. And together, these organizations are collaborating to help homeless women and their children move from a state of crisis to one of stability and independence. The group was selected from more than 40 collaborative applications from nonprofits and social entrepreneurs.

“The collaborative is directly impacting the lives of women and their children, as well as future generations, while creating a benchmark model of how multiple organizations can collaborate to address a community need,” said Al Smith, group vice president, Toyota Social Innovation. “When we all work together, we unite the best ideas, people and projects to create opportunity and drive forward positive change.”

Collaboration is key

CCMC has four main pillars of outreach. They work to provide homeless women with safe and stable housing, assist with affordable and reliable transportation, facilitate specialized after school and early childhood programs, and increase women’s earning capacity through education, job training, certification and job placement.

“[Our] collaboration formed around the nucleus of the services that were already being provided by the individual agencies,” said Janet Collinsworth, Executive Director of Agape Resource and Assistance Center. “Those services also happened to share the common denominator of helping women become economically stable, specifically women with children.”

Despite Collin County’s rapid population growth and economic success, homelessness has remained on the rise. The economic downturn of 2008 resulted in an uptick of layoffs throughout the generally affluent county, and in 2010, in Plano alone, 14 percent of children were eligible for free and reduced lunch. By 2016, that number rose to 30 percent and only continues to increase, as do the number of identified homeless children in the municipality.

 “These women are becoming homeless not because they’re not working, but because the cost of living is surpassing their earning potential,” said Eppy Thern, Executive Director of Shiloh Place of McKinney. 

Scaling up to serve the need

Thern says that CCMC has created a framework of collaboration not only to address homelessness, but to also help individual organizations expand and grow in ways they wouldn’t have been able to on their own.

“We have created common measures, technology systems, and a way to collaborate that can benefit other organizations – and that is something we want to share with others,” Thern said.

For Sheila Miller, Executive Director of Family Promise of Collin County, collaborating across nonprofits has been nothing short of a wonderful experience. For example, some of the families that have graduated from the initiative first came through Family Promise of Collin County and were sent to other organizations within CCMC for additional assistance.

“I love the fact that we’re working together and we’re proving to be even more successful by doing so,” Miller said. 

As the collaborative completes its second year, it’s looking to expand.

“If we have more organizations that are able to partner with us and formally collaborate with us, then they will be able to increase their capacity as well,” Thern said. “Our desire is not just to continue our collaboration, but to grow it to serve men, women and children.”

Ashley Owen Brundage, MSSW and Senior Vice President of Community Impact for the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, said that solving complex community challenges requires much more than investing in a single program.

“Strong collaborations, such as the Collin County Mobility Collaborative, provide a multi-faceted approach to driving lasting change through both direct services and systemic interventions,” Brundage said. “United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is proud to partner with Toyota to identify effective solutions that will provide opportunities for families in Collin County.”

By coordinating various services to tackle homelessness, CCMC is empowering North Texas’ most vulnerable population while encouraging local communities to collectively share their knowledge, resources and energy.

Visit the Collin County Mobility Collaborative online to learn more about their mission and to discover volunteer opportunities and other ways you can pitch in.

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