Service coordination helps guests and visitors navigate a new path forward
The economic downturn of 2008 was a turning point for the Haven. By the summer of 2009, the number of people coming to the Food Shelf every day had doubled. In addition to food, people were looking for help in solving problems—a job loss, utilities shut off, a health crisis.
“At the end of the day, the Food Shelf manager would be in my office crying, worrying about everything else that was burdening visitors,” recounts former Executive Director Sara Kobylenski who had only recently started this new job. A social worker by training, Sara knew the answer lay in effective case management: helping people navigate the increasingly complex problems they were facing until they were stable.
“Case management is critical in helping people determine what their needs are and connecting them with the resources that get that need met,” adds Director of Shelter and Clinical Services Renee Weeks. “By the time they get to us, people are so down and out—all they can do is focus on day-to-day survival. Through case management, the Haven’s service coordinators can act as a ‘temporary frontal lobe’, helping them organize their thoughts and develop a plan.”
Today, nine service coordinators including two supervisors, one for adult-focused programs, one for families, work with hundreds of individuals a year. These include people living in the Haven’s shelters, those who come in from the community, as well as those who were once in shelter but are now housed.This work happens quietly, behind the scenes, in meetings on campus, over the phone or “virtually” by computer, in the community at people’s homes or in outreach to people who are homeless and by email or text. The Covid-19 pandemic required us to make many changes for safety, but we never stopped working with people who asked for our help.
“Without case management, people would still be homeless,” Renee continues. “There are so many resources available, but you have to know where to go and what to do. In fact, that’s why the service coordination staff regularly meets as a team. We’ve all developed areas of expertise, whether it’s where to go for dental care or eyeglasses or pet care. We rely on each other to help our clients.”
“Case management is the programmatic glue that makes everything else at the Haven make sense,” Sara Kobylenski concludes.