By LAINE GRIFFIN
Daily News-Record 8/30/19
HARRISONBURG — Our Community Place recently received a $50,000 grant from the Merck Co. Foundation, which will help assist the homeless in finding housing, health care and employment.
The nonprofit applied for the grant in April and was given the money in full last week.
Around $35,000 will be put toward expanding the case management program, which launched in the beginning of 2018. It will also be put toward hiring a fulltime licensed social worker.
The case management program has helped track outcome data in terms of the work OCP does with the homeless to get them off the streets.
Currently, OCP has one full-time and one part-time employee.
Sam Nickels, the executive director of OCP, said the number of people assisting OCP fluctuates.
“Last spring we had a [James Madison University] social work intern who worked full-time and half of her work was case management, so employees and volunteers come and go,” Nickels said, adding that the nonprofit has three volunteers currently. He said it’s crucial that OCP hires a social worker to help its efforts, but realizes the market for social workers is tight.
The social worker will help the homeless apply for Medicaid and do Medicaid
Since Virginia expanded its Medicaid Program, Virginia officials have estimated that more than 400,000 are eligible for Medicaid statewide, but Nickels said less than 200,000 have signed up.
“Folks, once on Medicaid, don’t understand the renewal process, or it’s burdensome for them,” Nickels said. “The homeless don’t have an address to send the renewal documents to so they end up losing it.”
To apply for the position, submit a cover letter to OCP’s Director of Development and Administration Eric Olson-Getty at email@example.com.
To get more information about the position, visit www.ourcommunityplace.org.
The remaining $15,000 of the grant will go toward supporting the Young Jupiter Market Garden, located on Madison Street.
The garden is OCP’s second one, which opened around March. The first is located at the nonprofit’s facility on 17 E. Johnson St.
“The idea is to employ folks who are homeless to work at the garden, harvest its produce, sell the produce or use whatever produce is leftover for sales to supplement the foods at OCP,” Nickels said.
For the past 11 years, the nonprofit has served more than 8,300 free community meals per year at its facility.
Along with its case management services, job training opportunities and meals, OCP provides showers, storage lockers and educational trauma-informed activities.
“We are thankful for the Merck Foundation for entrusting this money to us and we are hopeful that we can continue to make a difference and help those who need it,” Nickels said.