The average age of a homeless person in the state of Missouri is 7 years old. During the 30 years that Hillcrest has been operating, it has produced a 95 percent success rate among families who complete the intensive 90-day program and remain self-sufficient for five years following graduation (the length of time Hillcrest tracks program members).
Hillcrest Traditional Housing is a nonprofit organization operating in several Kansas City Metro region counties, as well as Buchanan County. The philosophy is different than many housing assistance programs in that the goal is self-sufficiency, rather than a temporary housing solution — and the requirements toward reaching that goal are quite clear and deliberate. Adults in the program are required to maintain employment of 40 hours per week. Both adults and youth in the program are required to attend four to five life skills or budgeting classes, which are offered at times that accommodate their work or school schedules.
It’s a formula for success that serves local families well, demonstrated by the 95 percent success rate. Another key element of the Hillcrest program is that youth who participate must have a goal toward their education, whether it be completing high school or a GED program, and hopefully a technical training program or college. They must also be willing to find ten to 15 hours per week of employment. The age range of local youth served is 16 to 21, and participants can receive support toward their self-sufficiency goals for up to two years.
This support model also has a clear formula: families can receive housing without a rent or utility payment, but they must sign a written agreement stating that they will follow the program guidelines and attend the weekly life skills classes. The volunteers who coordinate Hillcrest go a step further, offering a network that includes help getting cars back on the road, assistance with food needs, medical help, and even dental assistance. Haircuts, new glasses and clothing for employment are also offered to participants who are honoring their agreement. All of these are critical toward finding and maintaining employment, and working together, can remove critical barriers toward self-sufficiency.
The communities in which Hillcrest has an affiliate have been strong supporters of the Hillcrest mission and work. Volunteers continue to advocate for the Hillcrest philosophy, and a website features easy-to-find facts and criteria about the program, with personal stories coming soon. Special events are also a marketing tool Hillcrest uses to build awareness, but the true story of the program circulates because of its straightforward plan toward measured success.
Today SJC thanks the volunteers and board members of Hillcrest Traditional Housing, including our own Susan Campbell. These are volunteers willing to come alongside — step by step — as individuals achieve the goal, the blessing and the basic human need of a place to call home. It is truly a hand up = not a handout.