Community Experience Partnership
Through the Community Experience Partnership, an Encore initiative, people age 50+ are helping local housing organizations achieve Kent County’s Vision to End Homelessness. For example:
- Degage Ministries involves experienced adults as consumer navigators and housing advocates. Volunteers in the Housing Office use their life experiences to build trusting relationships with those seeking housing, supporting each individual in attaining – and sustaining – permanent housing. Volunteer support includes interacting with landlords, providing transportation for apartment searches, and connecting patrons with community resources.
- Through Disability Advocates of Kent County, experienced adults participate in systems change training as a basis for research, advocacy and awareness raising activities. They assist in community organizing activities aimed at creating equal housing opportunities; analyze accessibility issues; promote universal design; and identify affordable housing alternatives for individuals with disabilities.
- Experienced adults are taking on critical roles in Habitat for Humanity of Kent County's homebuilding work by providing skilled labor and moving into leadership roles. Carpenters Club volunteers commit to learning new skills and becoming skilled team leaders or assistants to Habitat site supervisors. Through advanced training and certification, some Carpenters Club volunteers serve as Habitat Heroes, potentially filling the role of site supervisors. Experienced adults are enabling Habitat to build more houses and reduce building costs, ensuring continued affordability of Habitat homes.
- At the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan experienced adult volunteers share their life skills, talents and abilities with economically vulnerable families with young children, helping them to assess and address unhealthy conditions in their homes and connecting them with established community resources. Experienced adults receive special training to serve as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) coaches, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector installers, and radon testers, helping families achieve safe, stable and permanent housing.
- The Salvation Army provides multiple opportunities for experienced adults to support the community’s efforts to provide affordable housing for all:
- Through the Congregational Partnership Program (CPP), experienced adults are receiving training and taking on key roles as leaders and volunteers. CPP Ambassadors make presentations to congregations and other community groups. Others provide skilled leadership in communications, fundraising, and liaison work with the CPP volunteer teams. In addition, experienced adults participate in volunteer teams, offering supportive relationships to households struggling to maintain stable housing.
- Experienced adults are also playing a key role in the Housing Assessment Program (HAP), providing an initial screening to determine if they can benefit from HAP services and referring them to more appropriate resources if necessary.
- Well House has focused on identifying and empowering experienced adults who are already involved in the organization—as current or past residents or volunteers. This core of experienced adults leads the Well House initiative—deciding priorities, forming and guiding teams, and implementing projects with the help of other experienced adults from throughout the community.
Kent County’s Vision to End Homelessness provides a roadmap for ensuring that safe, stable and affordable homes are available to all. Coordinated through the Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness, the Vision focuses community efforts on promoting housing security through prevention, supportive services and increasing the supply of affordable housing.