BLOG: Stark County’s Homeless Hotline 330-452-4363

Categories: Blog, Featured News

clasped-hands-760x450Most of us have known someone experiencing homelessness at some point. Maybe we let a friend stay in our spare bedroom or on our couch because they had nowhere else to go (also known as called couch-surfing). Or maybe we knew someone who got evicted from their house or apartment and ended up staying in a shelter until they could get back on their feet.

More than a half-million people are literally homeless in the United States on any given night. On one night in January, 2016, 460 were homeless in Stark County, according to the Annual Point In Time Count.

Many who have called the Hotline say they “never thought this could happen to me.” But, according to many news sources, homelessness could be lurking around the next corner. A PR Newswire report on April 22, 2016, stated that a recent study from Fifth Third Bank “found many Americans haven’t set aside the savings to support their financial goals. In fact, 47 percent of respondents frequently live paycheck to paycheck.”

Read the PR Newswire report »

The Stark County Homeless Hotline helps people experiencing “homelessness” (those literally without a home) and people who are “close to being homeless” (the accepted term being “at imminent risk”).

Who calls the Hotline? People who are homeless, of course. But the Hotline also interacts with countless individuals and agencies who are working to help prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless as well as helping them to get a roof over their head if they are without shelter. A local hospital may call when someone is being discharged and their friend won’t take them back. School counselors regularly contact the Hotline hoping to learn of new resources to help their students and families. Local churches and social service agencies also call to learn how to access homeless services.

What happens on a typical Hotline call? Callers to the Hotline who want to be referred to shelter or housing are asked a number of questions about their situation to determine what resources are available for them. This part of the call is called the PreScreen. If the caller is not eligible for referral to homeless services, the Hotline Specialist will brainstorm with the person on the phone for specific solutions to their immediate problem. They may refer the caller to a program or agency that might help them further (such as the agencies who provide Emergency Assistance for rent or utility emergencies).

If the caller is eligible for services, the Hotline Specialist then conducts an Intake, collecting demographic and situational information that will help to determine the referral type and kind of assistance along with the final part of the call. The final step in the process is the Assessment, which attempts to determine the best level of assistance for each individual or family.

What should you do if you or someone you know needs help? Please contact the Homeless Hotline at 330-452-4363 for information 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, with the exception of major holidays. Please note that to be eligible for referrals to shelter or housing, the person in need has to be the one to make the call. We have extremely competent and compassionate staff willing to provide guidance and assistance.

The Stark County Homeless Hotline is answered 24 hours per day. Intakes are completed during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each business day. At all other times, the Crisis Center answers the calls so that any caller in a crisis situation can talk to trained staff.

Learn more about the Homeless Continuum of Care of Stark County (HCCSC) »

About Jennifer Keaton

Jennifer Keaton currently serves as Program Manager at StarkMHAR in the Heartland East Department, where she has been employed since 1996. Heartland East performs Administrative Services Center functions for fifteen counties throughout the state covering behavioral health enrollment, claiming and reporting operations for behavioral health services and also acts as the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) Lead for Stark County. Jennifer is responsible for oversight of the Stark County Homeless Hotline (including the Centralized Intake and Coordinated Assessment process implemented by her team) and the local HMIS. Her previous positions with the organization have included Operations Specialist, Enrollment Specialist and Research Assistant. Jennifer’s civic involvement comprises over two decades as a volunteer for Canton City Schools (including a term as an elected Board of Education member – President and Vice President, Citizens Advisory Committee, Bond Issue Campaign Committee Executive Committee member). Additionally, she served in various offices for Cedar Elementary School PTA, Canton City PTA (including President of both) and Ohio PTA as Health, Welfare and Safety Commissioner, ten years with the Girl Scouts of America as a Troop Leader and Neighborhood Organizer/Consultant, Christmas for the Homeless (benefiting Canton YWCA Emergency Shelter) and Habitat for Humanity.