The past fall, Grace’s Place Crisis Nursery in Washington became the designated coordinating agency for the Franklin County Homeless Task Force (HTF) to help organize and manage the resources available to help anyone who is currently or imminently facing homelessness.

“We knew as an agency, we were serving more homeless families than ever before,” said Amanda Jones, Grace’s Place executive director.

“We also knew that if we were seeing this, other agencies were seeing it as well,” she said. “Providing this coordinated effort makes perfect sense for our agency as we are already a licensed shelter for children, ages birth to 18.”

The Franklin County Homeless Task Force was created in 2016 by volunteers from local churches, civic organizations, the Federal Housing Development program, Empac, local school districts and many others who recognized an increase in homelessness in the area.

“We needed everyone to come around the table and help,” said Annie Foncannon, Franklin County Community Resource Board (FCCRB) executive director.

“We knew the impact would be significantly greater if we were all working together, versus individually,” she said.

The homeless task force has primarily been steered by Foncannon and Lindsey Jasper, a licensed clinical social worker for the Washington School District.

“As we’ve continued to see an increase in the number of homeless individuals these past two years, we realized we needed someone who could give more dedicated time to these individuals than we could as volunteers with full-time jobs,” said Jasper. “We felt the individuals would be best served if there was one designated place individuals could contact to coordinate resources versus reaching out to each separate agency that could potentially help them.”

Amber Hunewill, case manager with Grace’s Place Crisis Nursery, has taken over this task for the remainder of the year, in addition to continuing to serve the families accessing services at Grace’s Place.

A second full-time case manager will be added to assist Hunewill in January 2019, with the help of the FCCRB.

“We’ve heard the conversations that are being had in each municipality by officials, as well as what the residents are saying,” said Hunewill. “We know this is an uphill battle, but we also feel that as a community, we have a duty to serve and assist the individuals who are seeking help with homelessness.

“We feel by organizing our resources and increasing our data tracking efforts we can seek additional funding for the task force,” she added. “We’ve been so fortunate to have the support we’ve had up until now and to see the impact this group has already made.

“We want to continue working to diversify funding so we can keep providing food and shelter for those seeking our help,” Hunewill said. “We encourage any individual, group or church who would like to join the Homeless Task Force to please reach out to us at Grace’s Place so we can get your information regarding how you’d like to help.”

“We’re at a crossroads where we can no longer pretend homelessness doesn’t exist in our community and we need support to take care of those in need, right here, right now,” said Jones.

The Homeless Task Force meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 10 a.m. in the lower level of the Washington Public Safety Building, 301 Jefferson St., Washington.

Individuals or families who are at risk of becoming homeless or are already homeless and would like assistance are asked to call or text the task force at 636-221-1119.