Highland Church of Christ has partnered with Dallas-based non-profit CitySquare in an effort to combat the problem of homelessness in Abilene.
The church raised $600,000 as a part of its Called Campaign, and a portion of those funds will be put toward the goal of ending homelessness in Abilene. The project centers on a housing-first model, which tackles homelessness at its core by giving homeless people homes before seeking to address other needs. CitySquare is a supporter and implementer of housing-first initiatives in Dallas and has provided housing for homeless people. After researching CitySquare and other similar organizations around the country, Highland will work to provide Abilene’s homeless population with similar opportunities.
Paul Mathis, a classroom instructor at Faithworks of Abilene and a member of Highland, worked on the team that presented to Highland’s Vision Implementation Leadership Team about the project. Mathis noted benefits of partnering with CitySquare as the church takes on the initiative.
“A partnership with CitySquare provided resources, stability and, I think most importantly, the best chances for sustainability,” Mathis said.
He added that the housing-first model is effective because most who are given homes never return to homelessness.
“Around 80 percent of homeless people when given a home never return to homelessness,” Mathis said. “It is a great re-start. By providing homes for those most in need, we will then be able to connect people with other resources they need.”
Providing someone with a home is a platform for many other needs to be met, and with a permanent address, residents can apply for jobs, receive assistance and much more.
In a video shown at Highland, Suzetta Nutt, Highland children’s minister and member of the housing committee, spoke about the benefits of this approach to ending homelessness.
“Housing first is a way of providing a home to someone without having any expectations about how they will respond to being housed. It puts them in a safe place; it puts them in a place to be successful where they can get the help they need. And it works.”
CitySquare Dallas has seen people’s lives forever changed by this model, and they hope to accomplish the same thing in Abilene. This project fits inside of Highland’s Restoration Vision to “restore Highland, restore Abilene, restore the world.”
“We believe that if we are going to be the hands and feet of Jesus we need to bring about restoration in the lives of the people around us,” Mathis said. “We truly want to restore Abilene.”
The ultimate goal of both CitySquare Dallas and CitySquare Abilene is to end homelessness in the community. For the population of Dallas, CitySquare works on a large, expansive scale. While in the beginning stages, the Abilene operations will start small. Mathis said he believes the work here in town has the potential to expand to the same per capita scale as Dallas.
“One of the great things about doing this in Abilene is that we live in a community that truly loves helping people,” Mathis said. “I believe ending homelessness in Abilene is a reachable goal because so many people all across the city are committed to helping those in need. I really do look forward to all the ways we can follow the model CitySquare has set in Dallas.”