On Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 1:30 p.m., the White House Office of Public Engagement and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness will honor thirteen Champions of Change who have crafted innovative and impactful approaches in the Fight Against Youth Homelessness. Representing New Jersey, Frank Cirillo, Director of Mercer County’s Board of Social Services (MCBOSS), will be among the honorees.
Building on President Obama’s vision that “it is simply unacceptable for a child in this country to be without a home,” the Obama administration released Opening Doors, the nation’s first comprehensive federal plan to end homelessness. The Office of Public Engagement hope that this event will inspire all of us to continue to serve some of the most vulnerable members of our community – homeless children and youth.
The Mercer County Board of Social Services (MCBOSS) administers the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Workforce Investment Act program. In addition to overseeing the provision of cash assistance and work support to low-income families, MCBOSS provides financial support to homeless service agencies providing shelter and transitional housing to homeless TANF families. Mr. Cirillo serves on the Board of the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness.
In his role on the Board of Mercer Alliance and MCBOSS, Mr. Cirillo encouraged and supported the testing of rapid re-housing, a new approach to responding to family homelessness in Mercer County. In partnership with the Mercer Alliance, he approached the State and received permission to use TANF resources to support a rapid re-housing pilot.
The County was also one of 23 communities selected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to implement the Rapid Re-housing for Families Demonstration. As a primary funder of homeless shelter and transitional housing programs in Mercer County, Mr. Cirillo also took on a leadership role in encouraging local providers to test this new approach.
Under the new program model, families who are homeless receive help finding new housing, time-limited rental assistance and case management services. Because MCBOSS administers both TANF and WIA, families also receive significant support to enter the workforce. The early indicators of the model were so promising that MCBOSS decided to adopt their own internal rapid re-housing program staffed entirely by MCBOSS personnel.
The partnership between Mercer Alliance and MCBOSS is largely unrivaled, according to Sharon McDonald of the National Alliance to End Homelessness:
“While many communities build bridges between nonprofit sectors to respond to the comprehensive needs of families with children (including need for child development, housing, and parent’s support needs), the collaboration in Mercer represents a significant bridge between the public and nonprofit sectors. This unique partnership has allowed nonprofit providers to benefit from the employment expertise and broader array of resources that TANF/WIA agencies (including access to financial assistance and child care) can offer to the families they serve. “
Click here to read the full press release from the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness.