Thursday, June 4, 2009

Homelessness Prevention and Emergency Assistance

Homelessness prevention is my department’s main goal. Me, along with two other case managers, provide case management to six buildings in the city, amounting to around 1600 residents, and our goal is to keep these people housed. Originally the department was set up with the idea that case managers would mostly mediate between the residents and their landlords as well as help support residents (through emergency assistance) so they keep their housing.

I can attest for the last two years (that I've been at the agency) that we do some mediation between our residents and their landlords but I’ve needed to do that less recently. Other big forms of assistance are helping people catch up on rent if they’ve fallen behind due to a crisis situation, give food, and transportation (for specific appointments). All this falls under ‘emergency assistance.’

But really, day to day we find ourselves doing all kinds of tasks with clients that are not specifically emergency based, but support their wellbeing. That may include linking clients with physicians, addiction support groups, exercise classes, mediating between them and other family members, going to court with them, and so on.

Something else I like to do through my work is encourage resident empowerment. Early in my job I started working with a developmentally disabled client, Joe, who had a previous case manager who would do everything for him. Make his appointments for him with other providers, pay his bills, generally did a lot of handholding. Granted I still did and do a lot of that because of the level of Joe’s disability, but early on I would tell Joe that he’s capable of a lot more than he thinks. I understood that it could be an accomplishment for him to mail a letter on his own instead of having me send it, but I let him know as a way of encouragement that I respected his knowledge and experience. From my conversations with him and doing some of the regular tasks (especially the repetitive ones) I could tell he knew what he was doing because he would sometimes prompt me when I hesitated. People respond strongly to their environment, and I try to remember that when I interact with clients, although it definitely gets tough.

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