Local governments are constantly trying to streamline their services, but no matter how much progress they make there always will be layers of processes that residents must complete to receive these services. This can be especially difficult for those living in poverty, for the elderly, or for anyone who lacks adequate or consistent access to technology, and these kinds of issues were only compounded by the pandemic as poverty rates increased due to factors such as job losses or reduced work hours.
Arapahoe County has begun to address this problem by hiring navigators, trained professionals who help residents make (and keep) the appointments, complete the forms, and submit the materials the County must have to ensure that their clients are getting the help they’re entitled to receive. These workers also connect families to community resources and additional services and supports that are provided by community partners, including various agencies and faith-based organizations.
In addition to helping clients better utilize our services, navigators also are part of a community of programs and services that reach far beyond what the County can do for them. Any governmental relief system has many gaps and barriers that vulnerable populations face when trying to access assistance, and navigators help them make the appropriate connections and leverage available resources. In so doing, navigation goes beyond general case management by helping those who really need intensive support services.
The County’s Human Services Department (ACDHS) has been approved to use the County’s ARPA funds allotment to add two additional family navigator positions to its existing two navigators (plus one supervisor). This has helped our staff increase their capacity to address the complex needs of families that are already experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless.
The navigators fit seamlessly into the ACDHS Two-Generational (2Gen) approach, which serves multiple generations of families simultaneously—and in multiple categories such as housing, domestic violence prevention, job training, and parental skills development—to better address the often-chronic problems these families might experience.
In the period between September 2020 and May 2021, these navigators served 381 families and were able to help 316 of the families find temporary housing and 89 of them find permanent housing within one-to-three months of starting the process. The demand for the navigators was so great that doubling the staff size—which the County could not have afforded to do without the ARPA relief funds—should help ACDHS serve at least twice as many families.
The feedback the County has received from program participants has been so grateful and encouraging that other departments have begun hiring more navigators, usually using ARPA assistance to fund the positions, to help work with other food assistance, job training, judicial services, and veteran-specific programs offered by the County.
“The navigator model has been a welcome addition to our many services and programs,” said ACHS Director Cheryl Ternes. “Being able to use the ARPA dollars to fund these positions—instead of having to dip into our already limited budget—has been an invaluable help in expanding our core mission of ensuring the health and safety of our most vulnerable populations.”
For more information about Arapahoe County’s ARPA allocation process, visit www.arapahoegov.com/ARPA.