New approach to homelessness working
By Joan F. Simoneau, Community Reporter
Marlborough – Over the past six years, the state and federal governments have begun to take a new approach to ending homelessness. The new model is called “Rapid Re-housing” or “Housing First.” Susan Gentili is the division director of Emergency Services of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC), which is involved in the initiative.
“The new approach is based upon the knowledge that people do better in working on other issues that may be present, after they are in their own stable housing,” she said. “Many local and area individuals who are engaged in SMOC's Common Ground Resource Center, a part of this effort, are rebuilding their lives, with much success, using the tools of this program, which provides case management services to help ensure tenancy and stability.”
Pete M. entered the program in May 2011 after having lived in the woods through the years and eventually was directed to Roland's House, Marlborough's homeless shelter. Following depression and continuing homelessness, he was referred to the new housing program and was placed at the Frye Building on Lincoln Street, where he currently resides, an appreciative member of society, sober and drug-free.
“He does a great deal of volunteer work at the Recovery Connection and has been reunited with his two daughters, and sees them on a regular basis,” said caseworker Pam Dearborn.
Margaret C. moved from shelter to shelter for many years, never had a place to call home, and was unable to maintain employment. In June 2011, she found a home, also at the Frye Building, and within six weeks, Margaret got a job, is still employed, and remains sober and happy with her new life.
Program Manager Joseph Cavanaugh attributes much of the success of the program to the case manager working very closely with the clients to help them achieve their goals in a wide array of areas.
“Due to being homeless, a client's health is often compromised, so Pam is able to work with them to help them get the necessary medical treatment they need, in order for their health to stabilize. Some clients also have substance-abuse issues, and Pam again works closely with them, sets them up with therapists and/or psychiatrists and is a constant source of support and encouragement for them to meet their recovery goals,” Cavanaugh said.
One of the biggest challenges the program has faced is finding affordably priced rooms and apartments, according to Dearborn.
“Pam has established a strong working relationship with area landlords who fully support our program, and is also able to intercede if there are any issues,” Cavanaugh said.
Branch Yules, an apartment rental consultant who owns and operates apartments in the Marlborough, Hudson and North Attleboro areas, including the Frye Building on Lincoln St., is actively involved in the program. He and his staff embrace the program and see its success enhanced by the caring attitude displayed by Dearborn.
“She instills trust and hope, and stays with the clients for many months, even after they have moved into a less sheltered existence,” Yules said.
Dearborn appreciates the help and understanding she and her clients receive from Yules, his team and White Real Estate of Marlborough, which provides much of the housing.
“They really care and treat the individuals with kindness and respect, which is so important,” she said.
To be considered chronically homeless, a person has to have been homeless for either one entire year or have had four distinct periods of homelessness in the previous three years. In addition, each participant must have a diagnosable disabling condition that affects their ability to work or perform one or more activities of daily living.
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