Many people know that Opportunity House provides shelter for homeless people in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Few know that Opportunity House provides permanent housing to many of our formerly homeless clients.
The move from Opportunity House shelter to permanent housing comes with excitement, anticipation and apprehension. That’s where our permanent housing case manager, Kim, plays a vital role in the long-term success of our permanent housing clients.
Kim joined the Opportunity House Shelter team in the role of permanent housing case manager. Prior to this role, Kim served as a case manager for Opportunity House Supportive Services for Veteran Families program in Lancaster. In that role, Kim helped Veterans who were homeless or facing eviction secure permanent housing.
At Opportunity House the role of the permanent housing case manager is to give clients the tools and support they need to successfully maintain permanent housing and break the cycle of recidivism.
Setting Residents Up for Success
“Communication is important,” notes Kim. “It helps them break the homeless mentality.” Changing the mindset is important. The client and the case manager create a plan of action and move forward. When they are housed, the permanent housing case manager also provides tools so clients can be successful and maintain long-term stable housing. The goal is to prevent recidivism and repeat the cycle of homelessness. “Ongoing contact builds accountability with clients and helps them overcome the fear of succeeding,” she added.
The fear of succeeding often comes from years of self-doubt and failure. Clients often have been told they can’t do it, or they’ll never succeed and hold onto those messages. Our program shows them a different path and celebrates small successes. “We reinforce small positive steps forward like applying for Section 8 or applications to the Reading Housing Authority. We help clients establish realistic timelines,” noted Kim. She helps continue on this new path and provides support and encouragement as they embark on a new chapter in their lives.
Creating New Habits and Transforming Old Habits
When clients are in permanent housing, it’s common to see behaviors that may seem puzzling to those who have never experienced homelessness. A new home is a fresh start. It’s exciting for clients to move in and begin to make it their home. They may have just a few things to furnish their new home. Within a few months, it’s not uncommon to see an apartment overflowing with stuff.
Housing clients have experienced homelessness and often have a scarcity mindset. This may manifest in clutter and hoarding behaviors out of fear that one day they may not have anything. When the case manager sees disarray, clutter or chaos it’s a signal to ask more questions. “Once we help them organize their thoughts, we can help them organize their things,” noted Kim. For many clients, the support of the housing specialist is critical to overcoming the trauma from homelessness. They know that someone is as invested in their success as much as they are. “Our goal for clients to be independent and responsible adults who are accountable for their home, including its upkeep and paying their bills,” added Kim.
Kim’s Goal is Providing Long-Term Success for Clients
Changing habits and patterns is challenging for most people. With Kim’s help, clients have the individual and ongoing support to create new habits and behaviors. The permanent housing case manager plays an integral role in helping clients maintain long-term stable housing and provides early-intervention to prevent behaviors that may return them to homelessness. “We understand that clients may take a step back and that’s understandable,” remarked Kim. It’s Kim job to help client get back on track, assure them that success is possible and give them the tools and support for them to achieve it. Success is a journey and Opportunity House provides support every step of the way.
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