ECHO West Texas forms to help coordinate homeless services in Lubbock area

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 8:37 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - What was known as Lubbock’s Homeless Haven, which formed in 2021, has been redeveloped into a nonprofit organization known as ECHO, Ending Community Homelessness Organization, West Texas.

Its goal is to provide a “neutral party” to area service providers as a way to better collaborate and communicate.

“We want to approach working together on solving homelessness here in the area,” Executive Director Valerie Longoria said. “It was a way that we could start fresh and start new, creating that new strategy, but it came with a name change to ECHO West Texas. When we had thought about the area that we wanted to serve, we didn’t want to just name it Lubbock, because we know that it’s the hub. There are a lot of rural surrounding areas and they rely on this area for those services.”

Longoria was hired after time as the executive director at Family Promise of Lubbock and involvement in other nonprofit work.

The bylaws of ECHO West Texas
The bylaws of ECHO West Texas(Source: City of Lubbock)

ECHO West Texas will not be another shelter, but rather a central coordination point for services and funding opportunities. Longoria said that will involve creating a database, the West Texas Community Solutions Network, that can be utilized by providers and stakeholders.

“What is needed here in the community, we need everyone’s view in that sense,” Longoria said. “Most importantly, we need that data. We need...the facts to tell us what’s going on in the community and what is the best and most fair route that we need to take in doing that, when we’re considering everything.”

Longoria said there’s also an opportunity to use that data to identify gaps in services and to also secure funding for the area.

“It’s been so competitive, where you have organizations competing against each other for the funds,” Longoria said. “Instead, we should be binding together and competing against cities for funds. We need to work in the best interests of the community. We have that privilege. We were given that opportunity to serve as a nonprofit organization, but that’s our duty.”

That database will also be used to identify the best provider for a homeless individual’s needs.

“Instead of having somebody come in crisis, calling 20 different organizations and lose hope, continue to go down in the spiral of emptiness and no hope at all, our goal is to have immediate responses, immediate, most updated available services to them,” Longoria said.

The Board of Directors for ECHO West Texas includes community members, someone who has experienced homelessness, representatives from the City of Lubbock, Lubbock County, medical community, the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office, Lubbock Police Department as well as representatives from homeless organizations.

The Lubbock City Council appointed Councilwoman Latrelle Joy to represent the City of Lubbock. She said she hopes to bring her 12 years of experience with homelessness issues in Lubbock to the table.

“We’ve had lots of people who help and do things, but they’re all operating out of their own little places,” Joy said. “Hopefully this will help coordinate those services. The city does a great job of coordinating services for people who need help, but this will broaden that spectrum and they’ll be able to work with each other. For example, Grace Campus does a great job, but they deal with a different population. Salvation Army does a great job, but they deal with a different population. But, all of these organizations know each other. They’ll work together, and I’ve seen them work together, but they need some board, some entity that can help them get all of this coordinated, so that they’re not all just out there on their own.”

Joy said this will also provide an opportunity for the City of Lubbock’s services to be utilized.

“I have seen what the City of Lubbock does,” Joy said. “We do so much to help people get on their feet - from rental assistance to working on their homes. We have all these resources at the City of Lubbock which will help this board and this entity do what they want to do.”

Right now, after just two months of operation, ECHO continues to form its board and establish the new database. Longoria tells KCBD this is about helping the community through collaboration, not competition.

“We want to attack the problem, not the people,” Longoria said. “That’s what the goal is here, as well. We don’t want to go after a certain person or hurt an organization, that’s not our goal. It’s not to take away control. It’s just how do we create fairness for everyone.”