Meet LuCynthia Jones, Steps to Home Housing Director for Leading Families Home. In this 15-minute interview, LuCynthia shares information about her role as Housing Director, the latest updates in her department, and important certifications her team is working to achieve.

My name is LuCynthia Jones, Steps to Home Housing Director at Leading Families Home My responsibility is to carry out the mission of the organization (transitioning families from homelessness to permanent housing) by providing servant leadership to a dynamic team of Housing Stabilization Case Managers and Housing Inspection Specialists, which is the Supportive Housing Team. In addition to providing leadership and guidance, developing and implementing policies and procedures for both our Permanent Supportive Housing and Rapid Rehousing programs, I work with the other leaders in the organization to streamline our processes.

What are the latest updates that have happened in your department?

Our Housing Stabilization Case Managers are SOAR certified in June 2020, and they transitioned to primarily remote work which has presented a few challenges. However, through those challenges, the Supportive Housing Team has shown strength and resilience.

Tell us about the SOAR certification.

The SOAR Ohio project helps move Ohio’s most vulnerable populations into better housing opportunities. We work on behalf of disabled individuals who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless, preparing to exit institutions and/or diagnosis of a severe and persistent mental illness by helping them expedite the federal Supplemental Security Income/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSI/SSDI) application process to access safe, decent, affordable housing.

The application process for SSI/SSDI is very complicated and difficult to navigate and requires extensive documentation. FOr people struggling with homelessness or exiting jails, prisons, hospitals, or other institutions access to these programs can be extremely challenging. Approval on initial application for people who experiencing or at risk of homelessness and who have no one to assist them is about 10 to 15 percent approval for the Social Security Administration, compared to SOAR Ohio, which is currently at 54 percent approval. For those who have a mental illness, substance use issues, or co-occurring disorders that impair cognition, the application process is even more difficult – yet accessing these benefits is often a critical first step toward recovery, housing, and stability. SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery) model developed by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to address this critical need in Ohio, SOAR-trained case managers submit complete and quality applications that are approved quickly.

Tell us about CARF.

Founded in 1966 as the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, CARF International in an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services in the following areas:

Aging Services

Behavioral Health

Child and Youth Services

Employment and Community Services

Vision Rehabilitation Services

Medical Rehabilitation

Opioid Treatment Program.

CARF International accreditation provides a visible symbol that assures the public of a provider’s commitment to continually enhance the quality of services and programs with a focus on the satisfaction of the persons served.

Are there any other certifications you’d like to talk about?

Our Lead Housing Inspection Specialist is working on becoming a Uniform Physical Condition Standard (UPCS) Certified Inspector through HUD. It is a process that requires her to complete several rigorous online modules before moving on to a classroom review and field testing/certification.

What challenges do you face in regards to housing our Participants?

Engagement with private landlords and property management companies is key to housing our Participants. Some of our Participants have more than one eviction, unemployment, or underemployment, high utility balances, or criminal backgrounds, and those things make it difficult to find a landlord or property owner willing to work with us. We must convince them that our case managers go the extra mile with working with our families on life skills such as financial management, obtaining employment, maintaining a safe household, etc. Our reputation in the community is an asset to our success of finding landlords to work with, but it still requires great communication by our housing inspection specialist and case managers.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love working with people, and it is the icing on the cake to work for an organization where the people authentically believe in the mission and work of Leading Families Home. We have a dedicated staff at all levels, who work toward the same goal with integrity.

What can the average person do to help end homelessness?

If you personally know someone who is homeless or at risk of being homeless, the key is to connect them to resources. Direct them to call 2-1-1 or call 2-1-1 on their behalf to access resources. There are resources available for rental assistance for those financially impacted by COVID and other resources or programs that may be able to help a family or person at risk of becoming homeless.

You can also call your local shelters or visit their websites and find out what they need. They may need household supplies, toiletries, monetary donations, or volunteers to help them solve homelessness in our community. Volunteering may be coming into the shelter to help paint, read books to children, help prepare food, etc.

Every other month the Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board (TLCHB) in partnership with LMH facilitates a Community Advisory Council that is open to participation by any member of the community. Lending your voice on how to help the community solve homelessness is also important.

Lastly. you can vote for those in office who you feel will make a difference in the lives of our most disadvantaged citizens in our community.