2.5 Employment and Community Engagement Strategies for Homeless People with Disabilities (Wilson)
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2.5 Employment and Community Engagement Strategies for Homeless People with Disabilities (Wilson)



This workshop will explore strategies to increase employment among people who have been chronically homeless and are disabled. Speakers will describe community partnerships and programs that increase ...

This workshop will explore strategies to increase employment among people who have been chronically homeless and are disabled. Speakers will describe community partnerships and programs that increase employment skills and job opportunities.



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  • Introduce myself and Deborah’s Place. Deborah’s Place practices a housing first model, using a harm reduction approach to offer housing and services those most in need. Give some brief Deborah’s Place outcomes. [Get from Sarah.]
  • Ask who has ever helped someone move from homelessness to permanent housing. How did that feel? Share success story of moving a woman to housing. Celebration and relief – but is this really the end of the road? How many of us move into a new home thinking it’s the last place we will ever live? Life is a process, and a move into permanent supportive housing is a positive outcome, but it does not mean that a person ceases to move forward. We spend a lot of time reporting on outcomes, but these indicators are really just steps in an ongoing process. Important to accept clients exactly where they are, while at the same time challenging continued growth. Interesting dichotomy – makes our work complex and dynamic.
  • We all have daily living skills. Our clients/participants use a variety of skills to survive homelessness and conduct their every-day lives. It makes sense to make use of these skills as they play out every day, not just in classes and workshops. Housing First – Get a roof over someone’s head, then work on goals and needs to remain housed. Part of an initial assessment can be asking a client how he/she structures his/her days. Start from when he/she gets up and take the client through a typical day. If someone’s day lacks structure, is there a way to introduce some activity that will lead toward their goals? Look at how this structure might remain the same or change after a person leaves for other housing. At Deborah’s Place, the Learning Center is the hub of activity and social life. Offers a non-judgmental approach and plenty of options for filling days with meaningful activity. Options are important. We all structure our lives differently. No one is going to handle their finances the same way, clean their house the same way, form relationships the same way. We can work with people where they are, and offer opportunities, always remaining sensitive to cultural factors and individual needs. Example: woman who gets up after 1:00PM every day. Would she be interested in taking an evening class or doing volunteer work? Goals don’t end when a person moves into housing. Where is she now and where would she like to be now, in 6 months, in a year or in 5 years? Humanities program: Invites clients to become part of the community and to experience the rich cultural context that our city and world have to offer.
  • Based on Earl Shorris’ book this approach was first used with women in prison. Share Mr Shorris’ story of what women told him they need. More than resume-writing and mock interviews, women asked to be part of the cultural life of the community. Poverty separates people from that life which many of us take for granted. bell hooks talks about the “authority of experience”. No one can better describe a person’s experience than that person herself. The humanities give the women we serve a voice in which to express their experiences and a context for their experiences. They develop greater self-respect and an ability to understand others. Critical thinking becomes more important than daily living skills. The humanities teach us how to assess situations and apply the learning from another person’s experience to our own. Options for how to relate to others, how to spend money, how to take care of oneself and others expand. Decisions are made in a broader context within a rich cultural framework. Often, previously unexplored options present themselves. Women read, write poetry, see plays and participate in the culture of our society that them may have never before known existed. They now have a voice. Philosophy provides tools for problem-solving. Example: During a discussion of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, a woman likens the experience to relationships in her own life in which she felt as though she was viewed as merely a shadow. She now has more tools for looking at herself and the relationships she chooses. New approaches for dealing with every day problems present themselves, as people think critically and apply knowledge from literature, philosophy or other humanities. Example: Historical view of poverty provides lessons in money management and budgeting.
  • An example of some of the humanities courses offered. Also includes field trips to plays and other cultural events and “Socrates Café” roundtable Socratic discussions.
  • Philosophical basis to our work also comes from the Recovery Model. Dr. Patricia Deegan is a person living with schizophrenia who also has a PhD in clinical psychology. She founded the recovery movement in mental health. Deborah’s Place has applied the model to our housing and service programs. The recovery model sees the potential for recovery in even the most symptomatic mentally ill person. Recovery is seen within the model as a personal journey , that may involve developing hope , a secure base and sense of self, supportive relationships , empowerment , social inclusion , coping skills, and meaning . It is based on hope, willingness and responsible action. As hard as it can be, we sometimes have to allow clients to make what we consider poor decisions. Has anyone here ever failed at anything? We all do. We have to allow clients to follow their own paths, even when it sometimes can lead to a perceived “failure”. The recovery model focuses on self-determination rather than compliance. This is about helping people to create their own life directions. As part of assessment, find out what gives that particular client meaning in his/her life.
  • Now let’s get practical. The following are based on the Housing Transition Curriculum used at DP. There are logistical and real concerns for a person moving out on his/her own. The first step is to help the person identify their hopes and fears about moving on. Housing location: finding clean, safe, affordable housing. Many clients will continue to need rental subsidies. (Andrea has provided information on these.) Assess the clients’ desires and needs: neighborhood, proximity to family/friends, space for visitors, etc. Make lists of “Things I will not tolerate”, “Things I must have”. From these, write criteria to be applied to each apartment the client views. Budgeting: start by listing needs and the cost of each need, rather than with the current income amount. This provides a way to set goals to increase income to match the needs. It also takes away the “deficit” focus of the process. Preparation: Clients might need assistance with organizing their belongings, packing and actually moving. Also can assist with change of address and setting up utilities. Many clients have done this before. Assess need for assistance. Sometimes volunteers will assist with packing and moving, if it doesn’t feel too intrusive to the client. Relationships: This is where most of the post-move issues arise. Help clients to negotiate with a noisy neighbor or a landlord who comes into the apartment without prior notice. Example of a problem-solving issues: Client with DV issue who gave out her address and had door broken down by her male friend. Negotiation with landlord, client and subsidy provider allowed client to move to a safer location. Life balance: Avoiding the extremes – complete isolation vs house full of guests every night. Link to the community begins long before the person moves out. Making sure the clients’ needs are fulfilled, and transitioning gradually to community-based providers.
  • Three step process: Transition (make the referral, visit the agency, begin care before client moves out), Try-Out (allowing the client to practice use of the new agency for services), Transfer of Care (after successful try-out, transferring client care to new agency). (Borrowed from CTI – Critical Time Intervention.) Prepare client for different service models. For instance, our agency uses strength-based approaches, but our community mental health center might use a medical model that focuses more on diagnosis and traditional treatment. Help client learn what to expect and how to advocate for herself. How to work with community based agency – Make the linkage with your agency a win-win. You will provide clients and will maintain contact to assist with client needs until transition is complete. The client gets the services he/she needs. Follow up at DP: Hold regular alumni gatherings where “graduates” can network and maintain feeling of connection. Daytime service centers open to all graduates who wish to return for follow-up case management (provided by Masters level interns), employment services, humanities classes, health services or other educational activities. Clients also call when in crisis – can work with former case managers briefly, and then referred to daytime services for follow-up.
  • Assessment for readiness to move on: Does the client feel that she is ready? Does she have both short and long-term goals? This indicates that she has moved beyond concern for basic needs and daily problems, and is planning for the future. What skills does she already demonstrate: rent payment, housekeeping, getting along with neighbors. Anticipate problems and prepare possible solutions in advance. What to do if your food stamps get cut off, if your landlord won’t fix your heat, if your neighbor is too loud, etc. Review needs and ensure that services are in place prior to move-out. Housing Survey handout – provides brief and simple assessment tool.
  • Landlords need case management too. Sometimes have difficulty understanding the needs of their tenants. Develop trusting relationship just as you would with a client. Make sure the landlord knows how to contact you or the tenant’s case manager. Always respond promptly. Regular visits during the first couple of months can help identify potential problems before they become major issues. Expectations of both the landlord and the client: Landlord needs to fulfill obligations to provide a clean, safe environment. Needs to be responsive to the tenant. Tenant needs to understand her obligations to pay rent, keep her apartment up, control guests, etc. Work with both to manage expectations. Example: Tenant who locked herself out of unit and expected landlord to arrive immediately to let her in. Landlord wanted tenant to wait through the weekend. Assist both in negotiating a compromise.
  • Start assessment and goal setting as soon as the tenant moves in. Preparation for moving out can take a long time – allow as long as it takes, even if it’s years. Don’t rush the client, even if you feel she is ready to move out. Challenge her, but don’t give the feeling that you are pushing her out the door. Reflect all progress that you see, even if it seems small. A client who goes for a week without an altercation with her neighbor (after numerous problems), one who passes a housekeeping inspection (after many failures), or who take a step toward considering an off-site apartment – these are all successes. Remember that housing is not an end, but part of the process. Always maintain good relationships all around. You are a mediator and a facilitator. You can make things happen.
  • Julie’s Story: Woman living with bi-polar disorder who often goes on and off medication. Becomes easily agitated, causing difficulty in relationships. Lived at DP for several years, slowly working toward moving off-site. Finally, a subsidy program allowed it to happen. She now has a relationship with a community mental health care provider and has strengthened her ties with her adult children. She continues to struggle as she goes on and off her medication, and calls when she is in trouble. Her main ongoing issues are in her relationships, but she will call her case manager when she is upset, and can problem-solve and develop strategies. She also uses legal services through the Learning Center, and attends humanities classes. Eva’s story: Eva previously had her son taken away by the State and placed with her mother. She became pregnant while living at DP and needed to begin plans to move out. During the pregnancy, staff assisted her in structuring her days, and worked with her daily on critical thinking, judgment and parenting skills. Eva found an apartment and had her baby, another boy. She was allowed to keep him, and is maintaining her housing. She visits the Learning Center about once a week. Kyra’s story: When Kyra arrived as DP, she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and had a history of self-mutiliation. She was connected immediately with mental health services in the community, which continued even after she moved out. Through consistent and daily work, Kyra developed strategies to keep herself safe. She was able to obtain her teaching certificate, which had lapsed, and went back to school for her Master’s degree. She obtained a full-time teaching job, and was able to move into the community. She is currently living in a condo with her pet cat, teaching full-time and working on her PhD. She no longer cuts herself, and she continues her mental health services in the community. She calls occasional to give an update on her life.

2.5 Employment and Community Engagement Strategies for Homeless People with Disabilities (Wilson) 2.5 Employment and Community Engagement Strategies for Homeless People with Disabilities (Wilson) Presentation Transcript

  • Supportive Housing – Not the End of the Line Kathy Booton Wilson, MSW, LCSW Deborah’s Place Chicago, Illinois
  • End of Homelessness Beginning of a New Life
    • Is housing the end of the road?
    • “ The road leading to a goal does not separate you from the destination; it is essentially a part of it.”   ~Charles DeLint
    • The dichotomy of acceptance and challenge
  • Life Skills vs. Living
    • Working with participants in the context of their every-day lives
    • Housing First
    • How do we structure our time?
    • Options!
    • Current Goals   Future Goals
    • Humanities Program
  • Humanities Program
    • Earl Shorris’ Riches for the Poor: The Clemente Course in the Humanities
    • “The Authority of Experience” (bell hooks)
    • Critical Thinking and the Capacity to Explore New Options
    • A New Context for Decision-Making
    • Expanding the World
  • More Humanities
    • History, Anthropology and Archaeology
    • Literature, Languages, and Linguistics
    • Philosophy, Ethics, and Comparative Religion
    • Jurisprudence
    • History
    • The Expressive Arts
    • Visual Art
    • Mathematics
    • Geography
    • Women’s Studies
    • Multiculturalism and the Arts
    • Recovery (from a philosophical, spiritual and historical perspective)
    • Perspectives of “ Home”
  • The Recovery Model
    • Created by Dr. Patricia Deegan
    • Hope, Willingness and Responsible Action
    • People have the right to take risks and to fail
    • Compliance is not a desired outcome
    • Self-determination is a desired outcome
    • Focus on what gives life meaning for each individual
  • The Practical Stuff: Preparing for Housing Transition
    • Identify concerns, fears, dreams
    • Finding the right place
    • Needs-focused budgeting
    • Preparing to move
    • Neighbors and landlords
    • Life balance – socialization and isolation
    • Linking to the community
  • Life in the Community
    • Transition, Try-Out, Transfer of Care
    • Preparing for Different Service Models
    • Making linkage to services a win-win for providers
    • Ways for Relationships to Continue: Alumni Gatherings, Daytime Service Centers, Crisis Intervention
  • Am I Ready?
    • Desire to move on - what is the motivation
    • Thinking beyond today
    • Demonstrating skills in every-day life
    • Ability to anticipate problems and prepare
    • Linkage with services
  • Case Management with Landlords
    • Landlord relationships need to be managed too
    • Respond quickly to problems
    • Visit regularly
    • It’s okay to have expectations of the landlord and of the client
  • Strategies that Work
    • Start Early
    • Abide by client’s timeline
    • Reflect progress, however seemingly small
    • Housing is not an end, but a transition
    • Maintain relationships with client, landlord and community resources
  • Vignettes
    • Julie’s Story – Living with mental illness and learning to negotiate relationships
    • Eva’s Story – Parenting in real life
    • Kyra’s Story – Using the humanities to expand perspectives
  • Resources
    • Riches for the Poor: The Clemente Course in the Humanities , by Earl Shorris
    • Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy , by Christopher Phillips
    • www.socratescafemn.org
    • Housing Interest Survey (attached)
    • Working with Landlords (attached)
    • http://www.huduser.org/Publications/pdf/permhsgstudy.pdf
    • Katharine Booton Wilson
    • Deborah’s Place
    • 2822 W. Jackson Blvd
    • Chicago, IL 60612
    • 773-722-5080
    • [email_address]
    • www.deborahsplace.org
    Thank You!!!