Isabel Martinez Noth, PhD, Program Committee Chair, Board of Directors

I am deeply impressed by the dedication and ideas BEDS supporters contribute to the organization. I thank you for the growing attendance at our fundraisers and the hours given to the shelters – including the summer shelter and dinner program.

I am calling on supporters with expertise in the clinical fields relating to mental health and addictions counseling, employment case management and chronic health management to participate on our Board Program Committee. Committee service is the first step toward joining the Board, but Board membership is not required to share your expertise. There are some exciting opportunities available to support our amazing staff who in turn help clients make life changing decisions.

It’s this great impression of dedicated supporters and staff that lead me to join the board almost four years ago while I was looking to engage meaningfully in the Lyons Township area as a new resident with a public health background. Our family church was a regular shelter night site. I learned from its volunteers that my new community, like anywhere else I had lived, also had residents that struggled with domestic violence, child abuse, financial emergencies, access to physical and mental health services and affordable housing-the multiple factors that can lead to homelessness. I met the executive director and learned that homelessness prevention - identifying those at risk of losing their housing to immediately address their needs and keep them housed - was going to be a key goal in the agency’s services. This new prevention goal along with the vision to provide integrative services that meet the physical and mental health, employment and housing needs of homeless clients, has persuaded me to volunteer my time to this forward-thinking and caring not-for-profit.

As BEDS has grown in terms of the services it provides, the areas it serves, and the number of clients helped each year by implementing more and more best practices in the field of homelessness solutions. The concept of “best practices,” or another term used equivocally, evidence-based practice (EBP), was initially coined in the nursing/medical field, but it is now used in many health fields that work with clients and deem to improve their status. EBP is commonly accepted as the careful, clear, and thoughtful use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of a client. Such practice is generally deemed evidence-based only if research has proven significant positive outcomes in two or more controlled studies. Within the field of homeless housing and services, the promotion and use of evidence-based practices continues to grow. While many factors play a role in the increased use of EBPs, there are two factors that stand out. First, EPBs have proven to be more effective in producing positive outcomes for clients than practices used in the past. Since the goal of providers is to best serve their clients, EBPs have been rapidly implemented. Second, insufficient funding and resources across the social service spectrum has heightened the need to provide services with the best outcomes. The proven cost-effectiveness of most EBPs is often a significant cause for the adoption of such practices.

BEDS Plus has implemented several of these evidence-based practices over the years as the organization has grown, such as creating the Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) at 1601 Ogden Ave. Research has shown clients serviced by PSH programs have increased housing stability while reducing institutional stays. The organization has also increased the number of experience case workers and has established a professional relationship with the Adler School of Psychology to attract well qualified interns and mentors for the staff. Both steps add credibility to the services provided to the clients since research has proven that implementing sound case management and therapies have reduced a variety of problematic behaviors, including behaviors related to substance use.

The other commitment to best practices BEDS has decided to add is hiring a Clinical Director to further lead and evaluate the staff and the programs in EBPs.

Next, the Program Committee, one of the various committees one may volunteer and give of their talents to help support BEDS, will be working in coordination with the Clinical Director. The Program Committee has been renewed with the goal to serve as an additional best practice/EBP resource consisting as a team of clinical and health professionals that will provide guidance the case/social work and dependency counseling staff. For example, the members would help the staff with improving current protocols in service and with evaluation procedures. And in general, give any other professional support needed (as we find or are asked) for its dedicated staff to improve the outcomes of their clients.

In closing, I wish to thank all the volunteers and donors who have brought BEDS to the place it is today: a leading homelessness services agency in Chicago’s Southwest Suburbs that helps more than 1,200 people every year. And I invite clinical and health professionals to join the BEDS Program Committee and become part of an exciting new phase for our committee. I would love to meet with you personally to share my great impressions of BEDS Plus Care and where it is headed.