Poverello reaches out to neighbors in effort to address concerns

Over the past two years, the Poverello Center has shifted its focus from providing food and shelter to the homeless to getting them placed in stable, long-term housing, and it has done so with success, the shelter’s executive director said Thursday.

At the same time, Amy Allison Thompson said, the Poverello has reached out to its surrounding neighbors in a unified effort to address lingering issues resulting from the shelter’s revolving population.

“It’s something we made a shift to at the end of the year this past year, and we’ve seen some success in getting more people to the table for those conversations,” said Thompson. “They’re pretty common issues around littering, people loitering in the neighborhood, sometimes people sleeping on their property. Those are some of the concerns that people bring.”

For many years, Thompson said, the shelter has held neighborhood meetings every other month. Based on feedback from neighbors, it has advanced those meetings to once a month, offering both morning and evening sessions.

The meetings generally attract a member of law enforcement, who can help answer questions around authority, and what the Poverello can and cannot do to address some concerns. While the shelter can organize trash cleanups and keep its property clean, for example, it can’t force people to move on.

“I’ve seen over the past few months a really positive shift in the interest we’ve seen in law enforcement around this,” said Thompson. “I feel we’re really working to be proactive and we’re very interested in working with our neighbors on their concerns.”

While the Poverello works to address neighborhood concerns, it’s primary focus remains the homeless. The outreach team has successfully housed around a dozen chronically homeless individuals in stable housing over the past few months.

The shelter also has appointed a staff member to focus on housing retention to ensure clients stay housed, Thompson said.

“At the end of the day, our big focus is just supporting people getting housed,” she said. “It’s something we’ve been doing more proactively the past two years. Prior to that, we weren’t as focused on housing and we were more focused on providing food and shelter. We’ve really shifted in that direction and put a lot more energy on helping folks get housed.”

More than 30 volunteers joined staff and shelter clients in the last neighborhood cleanup. A similar event will take place this Saturday at 1 p.m. The event was created in response to neighborhood concerns.

“Regular community meetings provide important opportunities to have deeper conversations and to work together to come to real solutions when problems arise,” said shelter manager Elise Watts.