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Carlisle CARES has rebranded itself Community CARES to better represent the region it serves and to reflect its vision to collaborate with other agencies to end homelessness and facilitate programming for the underserved.

Leaders of the nonprofit organization unveiled the new operating name at its 11th Annual Community Celebration Benefit Thursday. The name change will be supported by a marketing campaign that is under development and would include the organization’s newsletter, website and Facebook page, said Shari Bellish, executive director.

“Because of the name, there was a big misconception that we only serve Carlisle,” Bellish said. “We really serve all of Cumberland County and surrounding areas.” She said the majority of clients are Cumberland County residents, but many are from outside the Carlisle area and only move or travel to the borough and nearby townships to be closer to the county seat and the many agencies that serve the homeless.

Twelve percent of clients are from Dauphin County while another 5 percent are from adjoining Adams, Franklin, Perry and York counties, Bellish said. So while its reach has been countywide and regional, the misconceptions tied to the old name have disqualified Carlisle CARES from receiving grants from funding sources where eligibility is tied specifically to demographics.

The same misconceptions have made it difficult for Carlisle CARES to garner support from churches on the West Shore and Shippensburg, Bellish said. Churches in Carlisle, Boiling Springs, Plainfield and Mount Holly Springs are on a monthly rotation to host overnight shelters for homeless men and women.

The rebranding comes at a time when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is asking each community to designate one point of entry for the homeless to access services, Bellish said. Over its 14-year history, CARES has developed into that point of entry where staff members conduct needs assessments before referring people to the appropriate agency.

Rebranding allows CARES to streamline the process and provide better communications, collaboration and coordination, Bellish said. She said HUD is requiring each point of entry to not only conduct a criminal background check on each person, but a medical and behavioral assessment before a referral is made.

The federal government is also mandating the development of a coordinated entry system where information on each person is entered and shared on a database. Cumberland County is part of a region of 33 Pennsylvania counties working to implement the system that could speed up the process of getting people back to their home communities.

Misconceptions over the name have become more of a problem in recent years, prompting the CARES board of directors to rebrand the agency after first verifying that the name “Community CARES” was not being used by another agency, Bellish said.

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History and education reporter for The Sentinel.