RHD’s Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center (CHOC) provides safe, short-term emergency shelter to adults experiencing homelessness in Montgomery county, as well as access to treatment, benefits and housing opportunities. Referrals and information are always available, as CHOC works to make sure the community has education and information on housing and homeless-related concerns. CHOC also provides opportunities for service and learning to community members, organizations and businesses. In addition, CHOC helps educate the surrounding community about housing and homeless-related concerns, and collaborates with local volunteers, organizations and businesses to complete service projects.
CHOC is the only year-round, 24-7, emergency housing service for single adults experiencing homelessness in Montgomery County. Housed on the Norristown State Hospital grounds, CHOC was first established as a day center in 2005. With the acquisition of a second wing, CHOC evolved into an outreach center and shelter. In 2007, through a partnership with Montgomery County’s Office of Behavioral Health, CHOC became a program of Resources for Human Development.
In 2017, CHOC moved into a new facility on the Norristown State Hospital grounds that expanded services in a safe and welcoming environment.
CHOC’s two wings include a day center where clients can meet with a caseworker, receive their mail, wash their clothes, apply for benefits, or attend group meetings; the smaller wing is a 50-bed overnight shelter. In addition to emergency shelter, CHOC provides street outreach, service counseling, transportation, rapid rehousing, meals, clothing, life skills and benefits counseling.
“People deserve housing regardless of anything else that may be going on in their lives,” said CHOC Director Genny O’Donnell. “At CHOC we want all people to experience having a home, in all of its most enriching and endearing traits. What inspires us is seeing people the people we support make it — attain and maintain their own housing and leave the shelter behind. We know our lofty goal of ending homelessness, together, is actually possible.
“Our goal is for a quick turnaround — in and out in three months. CHOC does its best work when people come in, get what they need and go on to attain housing.”
CHOC and the surrounding community share a mutually beneficial relationship, built on compassion, respect and understanding.
“We try to break down all barriers,” O’Donnell said. “The people here want to give back, just like the people who come here to serve. The best way to do that is to share a table, to have a shared communal experience. People are heard that way – the people who are serving are learning from the people who are living here.”