Researching Best Practices in Homeless Services

My passion for serving those within our community who are experiencing homelessness began my freshman year of high school when I would serve meals to visitors of Church of the Reconciler. In this capacity, I was able to spend time with visitors, getting to know them and their experiences. Nonetheless, I failed to grasp the complexities of their needs. In the summer of 2010, I had the opportunity to work under Dr. Stefan Kertesz at the Veterans Health Administration, assisting him in his research to tailor healthcare services to the specific needs of people experiencing homelessness. During my tenure at the VA, I began to better understand the health needs of people experiencing homelessness and how decent, affordable housing can serve as the cornerstone to supporting proper health. In the summer of 2011, I completed a fellowship with Collaborative Solutions, Inc. There, I performed a wide variety of tasks from writing policy briefs to drafting needs assessment surveys, affording me the technical skills required to evaluate homelessness from a macro-level perspective. Overall, these experiences led me to pursue a masters in public health, a field that will provide me with the tools needed to evaluate the health needs of vulnerable populations, analyze effective interventions, and systematically change policies that will strengthen our communities.

A little over a year ago, I contacted Michelle (One Roof Executive Director) about the possibility of a summer internship. I had taken a year off after graduating college and wanted to get my feet wet in the homeless advocacy field before beginning my graduate degree. In an introductory meeting with Michelle, Nathan (PromisAL Program Coordinator), and Valerie (Administrative Coordinator), we decided that I could best serve One Roof by exploring, documenting, and reporting upon best practices in homeless service provision. At first, this seemed like a fairly simple task, considering my ignorance regarding the enormous complexities in preventing and ending homelessness. Nonetheless, as I delved deeper into the research, I began to understand the connecting points between services – services that range from health care and housing, to employment benefits and supplemental income benefits. Additionally, I learned about the tools designed to secure such benefits for clients, including vulnerability assessments and peer support specialists. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me! As time passed, however, I found it easier to narrow my research into three main components: best practices for continuum of care success, best practices for housing program success, and best practices for increasing economic security.

Breaking down these topics even further, I had the opportunity to explore different tools and programs that have proven successful in stabilizing clients, helping to reach those most vulnerable within our communities. I presented this research to One Roof member agencies and later to members of the Board. My research has led to the writing of a document which fully discusses each practice and provides examples of models utilized throughout the country and even internationally. It is my hope that agencies throughout central Alabama can adopt as many of these strategies as possible, modifying them to meet the specific needs of clients within our community.

John-Andrew Young is a life-long resident of Birmingham. He completed his undergraduate studies in political science at Birmingham-Southern College in 2012. In the fall of 2013, he began his masters in public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, concentrating in health policy analysis. His current focus as a masters student centers around policies that benefit the healthcare needs of individuals experiencing homelessness.  

Ending Veteran Homelessness at 7th Annual Project Homeless Connect


On April 5, 2014, One Roof, the City of Birmingham, Hands On Birmingham, the United Way of Central Alabama, and 65+ agencies collaborated at Boutwell Auditorium to provide services at our city’s 7th Annual Project Homeless Connect. On one day, with one goal, under One Roof, more than 1,000 community members came together to strategically end homelessness.

Project Homeless Connect (PHC) is a national best practice utilized in many cities across the United States and is also an important part of our community’s plan to end homelessness.  Since 2008, guests of PHC have had access to state ID (a necessary document for applying for housing or employment), medical and legal services, grooming services, housing services, and more. At this year’s PHC, One Roof took to heart the call of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, US Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National League of Cities to end Veteran homelessness by 2015.

The following agencies came specifically to assist Veterans struggling with homelessness in central Alabama: three SSVF (Supportive Services for Veterans and Families) participants: Hope for Heroes (Aletheia House), Family Endeavors, and Priority Veteran (United Way); one Department of Labor employment grantee, Jobs for Vets (Aletheia House); several VA Hospital programs and services: Homeless Intake, HUD-VASH, CWT (Compensated Work Therapy), SE (Supportive Employment), HVSEP (Homeless Veterans Supportive Employment Program), Grant and Per Diem Housing, and Phoenix Clinic.

Of the 921 total community members in housing crisis who attended PHC, nearly 20% were Veterans. Of those Veterans, 51 were chronically homeless, meaning they have a disabling condition and have been literally homeless for a year or longer or have experienced homelessness four or more times in the past three years. These 51 Veterans represent nearly one-quarter of all chronically homeless clients served at PHC on April 5.

One Roof believes that each Veteran in our community deserves stability and a safe, decent, and affordable home. These folks served to make our community, our country, and our world a safer, better place. In return, One Roof believes that we can make our community a safer, better place for our Veterans.

Project Homeless Connect is a life-changing event in our community that is made possible by the collaboration of many service providers to make sure that anyone who is homeless in central Alabama can have access to the tools and resources that will help them to leave homelessness forever.  To support One Roof’s mission to equip and empower central Alabama to prevent and end homelessness through advocacy, education, and coordination of services, you can make a donation or contact One Roof by e-mail at info@oneroofonline.org.

Project Homeless Connect: Donate! Volunteer!

Our seventh annual Project Homeless Connect is Saturday, April 5 at Boutwell Auditorium. PHC is designed to provide an array of necessary services to people experiencing homelessness in our area — services that will help them leave homelessness forever. In one place, on one day, One Roof, Hands on Birmingham, City of Birmingham, United Way, and 65+organizations and businesses collaborate to eliminate barriers to housing for some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Check out this post from Michelle Farley, our Executive Director, to learn more about this event, then follow the links below to support One Roof’s efforts.


A $20.00 donation will provide State ID for one homeless person struggling to move past that homeless state. One Roof will spend $3500 – $4500 at Project Homeless Connect just for State ID. Please partner with One Roof to provide identification.

It is hard to move out of homelessness if you are sick, or if you can’t afford to purchase the medications that keep you well. One Roof pays for the life-saving medications (no narcotics) prescribed for clients at Project Homeless Connect. One Roof will spend $1500 – $2500 for medications. Partner with One Roof now to provide medication.


Want to participate in this life-changing (for clients AND volunteers) event? Sign up at Hands On Birmingham to be one of the 1,000 Smiling Faces needed to make PHC successful. Smiling Faces receive a brief training at PHC and then help homeless clients navigate the Boutwell to get the services they need.

Have mobility issues but still want to volunteer?  Contact Valerie@oneroofonline.org to be:

  • A Line Guide: Monitor lines for specific services to make certain clients are in the correct line, have the items they need to access that specific service, etc (can be done mostly from a stationary folding chair).

  • A Door Docent: Sit in a folding chair at entrances, exits, and no-access doors to make certain that event participants are going in the right direction.


Click here for more information on Project Homeless Connect and other One Roof events and programs.


Already donated? Signed up to volunteer?  Still want to make more of a difference in the life of someone struggling to get out of homelessness? Share this information with friends, family, neighbors, church groups, civic organizations, Greek affiliations, etc!
Preventing and ending homelessness is a community effort. We need YOUR help to do this. DONATE. VOLUNTEER. LEARN.
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