At the SOAR team meeting back in March 2012 we started brainstorming ways that we could engage with new communities and expand SOAR across the states in which we were already working. We decided that the already existing HUD Continua of Care (CoC) structure would be a great way to reach out. We released an RFA at the beginning of May encouraging CoCs to apply for some intensive technical assistance to be provided by the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center. Applications were due June 1st and 9 CoCs were chosen out of 30 applications. Each CoC received a facilitated planning meeting and follow-up TA, an opportunity to send two persons to a Train-the-Trainer program at no cost, assistance with planning and conducting their first training, access to the SOAR On-line Application Tracking (OAT) system, and ongoing TA to ensure that their efforts are fully coordinated with existing SOAR efforts in the state.
All of our new CoCs have been great, but there is one that has stood out among the rest from the very beginning. Louis Medina is the Homelessness Project Manager and Emergency Food & Shelter Program Administrator at the United Way of Kern County in Bakersfield, CA and truly a SOAR champion. He worked with Rhonda Starr to put the application together. The application was excellent and easily chosen as one of the 9 CoCs selected. Louis was always quick to respond and we could immediately tell that the Kern County Homeless Collaborative was excited to be bringing SOAR to their community. Two representatives, Neda Mashayekhi of Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance and Gerald Cantu of Steward’s Inc. attended our 4-day Train the Trainer program in Providence, RI in September. Neda and Gerald are now co-chairs of the SOAR Standing Committee.
On September 26, 2012, we held a one-day planning forum with representatives from disability determination, corrections, health care, mental health care, veterans services and homeless services. We continued to have frequent phone and email communications planning for community buy-in and preparing for the first SOAR training in Bakersfield on December 5-6, 2012. It was only a week after the training that a newly trained SOAR provider in Bakersfield was drafting their first Medical Summary Report and submitting it for review.
What has been really incredible through this 6-month transformation from TA application to successful SOAR implementation is tracking the progress on the Kern County Homeless Collaborative blog. Louis, Neda and Gerald have blogged each step of the way from award, to the forum, TTT and 2-day training observation. It has been such a pleasure watching SOAR take off in Kern County. I can’t wait to continue reading about all of their success.