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Partner Profile: Coordinated Access to Housing and Shelter

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I believe housing is a right, and everyone having fair and equal access to housing is the most important element of a successful society.

We value our onsite partners and the ways they serve our community, so we wanted to introduce you to one of them—and share how we can learn from their example.

Coordinated Access to Housing and Shelter (CAHS) is a partner organization assisting families experiencing homelessness in Ramsey County. They’re a part of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and the CAHS staff work to transition families into housing after they have been living in emergency shelters, sleeping on the streets or in their cars, or are fleeing domestic violence.

Lauren, a housing navigator, explains, “Housing is one of the most important (some may argue MOST important) elements to having a stable foundation—from infants to seniors, every human needs a stable home in order to build and maintain a successful life. CAHS helps those without that foundation to find it.”

On any given day, CAHS staff are making phone calls to set up housing, helping clients through the assessment process, and collecting information for housing referrals. But the CAHS staff see a bigger picture than phone calls and paperwork, and their perspective lines up with values we talk about as a church.

At Woodland, we emphasize that love is at the heart of Kingdom living, and judgment is the opposite of love. Unless we’re invited into the personal details of someone’s life, we can’t ever know enough about others to pass judgments on their character. Instead, we are meant to walk through life agreeing with God that all people have unsurpassable worth.

The CAHS staff are a living example of loving instead of judging. Shannon, another housing navigator says, “Homelessness does not discriminate—it can happen to anyone including you, so be careful in judging another person without knowing their story. We work to help people coming from ANY situation that has caused their homelessness to get them into housing.”

With this in mind, CAHS doesn’t worry whether their clients have made “poor life decisions” or deserve blame. They know homelessness is often just a paycheck away, especially with the pandemic and current economic hardship many people are experiencing. So they treat all their clients as people who are worthy and valuable—people with unsurpassable worth. These attitudes are based in a Catholic Charities philosophy to “meet people where they are and to treat them with the respect and dignity that everyone deserves.” After all, for any of us to make “good life decisions,” we need the stability that comes with stable housing.

CAHS staff: KaTina, Laurie, Jenny, Shannon and Lauren

A difficult part of their work is that they see suffering up close and have to grapple with a lack of resources, but each of them finds encouragement in the positive impact they are able to make.

Laurie, another one of their staff, tells us, “For children especially, having their own bedrooms, rather than sleeping in a car, bus, homeless shelter or on other people’s sofas is important. This is the most rewarding part of what we do every day.”

Shannon’s perspective is: “If I can restore some hope, faith and trust with the families I assess, advocate and support, then it’s a great day.”

CAHS has been instrumental in helping families during the devastation of the pandemic. KaTina, the CAHS supervisor says, “Because of the dedication of our staff we have been able to house 173 families since July 2021 and currently have 167 families on our waiting list, with 52 families with active referrals.”

That’s quite an impact! Thank you CAHS staff for all your hard work, for serving our neighbors, and for representing what it looks like to choose love over judgment. It’s a privilege to share our building with you!

Want to know more? Check out extra info here.

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"My almost-three-year-old asks every day if we can go to church. Thank you, Woodland Hills, and all the Heroes Gate volunteers for creating such a great environment for kids. My husband and I met at WH six years ago and now our son counts down the days until we get to go again. My heart could burst."

– Lindsey