Healing your way safely home

Alan Evans knows all about homelessness. Stuck in a cycle of homelessness and addiction without adequate resources for more than 25 years has taught him how to survive on the streets. What he needed was a helping hand, someone who could help him learn how to recover, make positive changes in his life and re-enter society.

In 2004, Evans, who was only five months sober, opened an eight-bed home for homeless in Seaside, Oregon, to help others like him. Finally, he had discovered a purpose larger than himself during his recovery – creating a place to give homeless people what he had needed: a helping hand. He named it Helping Hands Reentry Outreach Center with a mission of helping people live a sustainable life through resources, recovery and re-entry.

Every obstacle he faced trying to re-enter society became a learning opportunity to grow and inform the programs in the nonprofit shelter. He soon learned that he needed to collaborate and connect his program participants with existing community partners who also served low-income and homeless people. That way, he and his staff could work one-on-one on building the necessary knowledge and skills required to maintain long-term housing.

Over the following years, the home evolved and grew into 11 homeless shelters and re-entry programs, providing more than 200 beds per night in Clatsop, Tillamook, Yamhill and Lincoln counties in Oregon. The organization serves homeless men, women and children who are ready to make sustainable changes to improve their lives, who are clean, sober and not registered sex offenders.

Helping Hands discovered that the problem of homelessness is much more complex and overwhelming than just a loss of a place to live. The mix of people included individuals, families, senior citizens, as well as, drug addicts, ex-convicts, and others who were often desperate, high or suicidal. Evans was looking for ways to improve and evolve from an emergency shelter to a sober path to recovery and re-entry back into society.

In 2013, Evans had the opportunity to meet representatives from CareOregon to learn about community grants on the North Coast. Through our relationship with him, he learned about Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) and how they can affect and impact long-term health and wellness in adults. That resonated deeply with him, for he realized that he had a long-term history with ACEs. And that every person he met in his program had as well. Suddenly, it wasn’t about fixing people and their problems, it was about healing long-term trauma in people so they could live productive, sustainable lives.

In 2014, Evans applied for and received a grant from CareOregon and Columbia Pacific CCO (part of the CareOregon family) to fund a crisis manager in Seaside. The crisis manager worked on-site to help triage the crisis calls from the community, health care providers and police. In the first six months of the program, they had 63 crisis calls at an estimated cost of $1,832 per call. In the last six months, it had been reduced to eight calls, with an estimated savings to hospitals and taxpayers of over $100,000.

“While we can’t assume that our crisis manager thwarted exactly 56 calls,” Evan said. “It is evidence that there was a significant impact and our clients received immediate triage services that prevented crisis escalation and to keep them out of the most expensive place to get health care, the hospital emergency room.”

Now, the Helping Hands staff can sign people up for the Oregon Health Plan right at the door. This triage can save taxpayers and providers millions by determining need before heading to the hospital emergency room.

“An email is automatically generated to an assistor who “meets them at the door the very next day to provide them with that service,” Evans continued. “We educate them on our partnership with the CCO and all of the services that come with that health coverage.”

The crisis manager also conducts an evaluation that can flag mental health issues, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction, he said.

“We love working with CareOregon and Columbia Pacific CCO,” Evans continued. “We are helping people heal their way safely into a permanent home.”

That’s the CareOregon effect.

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