While Concho Valley Community Action Agency has existed since 1966, our housing programs were born in 2020 through the COVID-19 pandemic. CVCAA received millions of dollars to place homeless neighbors into units, help families avoid eviction, and support struggling households with rental assistance. This was our first experience assisting the Concho Valley with housing, and it was fast and furious! Unfortunately, the CARES and other COVID relief funds are now gone, leaving San Angelo with over 200 homeless neighbors waiting for assistance.
Since the drastic halt in assistance, CVCAA and the rest of the non-profit community have begun to search for unique ways to address the issue, such as beginning our monthly Navigation Day events to connect homeless neighbors with resources. In order to grow our plans and connections, CVCAA staff have been able to attend the Texas Homeless Network’s Ending Homelessness Conference for the last couple of years, and our team is fresh off the trip and brewing with ideas! This year, we were able to take our entire Housing Team, Direct Services Team Lead Ivett, AmeriCorps Vista Chrysanthemum, Outreach and Marketing Director Sidney, and Executive Director Mike.
For the first time, Mike and Sidney had the honor of being invited to present a session on our Navigation Day event and the intense collaboration among Concho Valley organizations. They spoke to a room of approximately 60 people on what the homeless crisis in San Angelo looks like, how our outreach began, and the opportunities for growth that we’re facing. Friends from the Housing Authority of San Angelo were also attending the conference and sat in on the session, adding their experience and thoughts on the event. We very much appreciated their support and insight as a community partner. Numerous people from across Texas approached CVCAA staff throughout the rest of the conference to let them know they planned to try similar things in their own cities. People from all sized areas were impressed by San Angelo’s creative approach to this rampant issue.
Throughout the three-day event, our team spread out to different sessions to take advantage of this opportunity. As many of us know, affordable housing is a huge issue in San Angelo and throughout Texas. As an agency, if we find a unit that is affordable for a client, we sometimes face challenges of them wanting to work with us or the unit not being up to habitability standards. To learn how to combat this issue, our housing team spent a lot of time learning about Landlord Engagement and how to get people on board to help us support our struggling neighbors. Likewise, another group of our staff went to a session with a New York architect to learn how to get public support for low-income housing and emergency shelters.
Our staff also attended sessions on SIM Mapping and how to divert homeless neighbors away from jail, preventing staff burnout through policies, implementing a storage program for neighbors to lock up belongings, and how to utilize insights from people with lived experience. This conference has given our team a great vision of the work that San Angelo has to do and how bright the future of the Concho Valley can be!