How does Center for Life Management provide assistance to those suffering from homelessness?
Our department is called the Supported Housing and Homeless Outreach Department. Within the department, we have “PATH” which stands for Projects for Assistance in Transitioning from Homelessness. Myteam member Derekis my PATH Outreach Worker and I do PATH Outreach with Derek as well. We’re the front line – the primary contacts for those in our area who are experiencing homelessness and/or are at risk of homelessness.
The area we serve – technically it’s called a catchment – is Western Rockingham county, the 11 towns of Chester, Sandown, Danville, Newton, Plaistow, Hampstead, Derry, Windham, Pelham, Salem, and Atkinson. We try to provide assistance to anyone who comes in the door, but if they’re living outside our catchment area – for example, they live in Manchester but are in Derry for the day – what we can do is connect them with a PATH Outreach Worker serving their area as well as give them other resources that we may have for them.
A real challenge that we have in our catchment area is there are no homeless shelters here at all. CLM does all we can to help people access services and address health issues but we are not a shelter people can stay at. If that’s what’s needed we refer people to Nashua, Manchester, Portsmouth, or Concord shelters.
How does someone connect with you for help?
Walk-ins are welcome here at the Center for LIfe Management in Derry. People can just stop in and let the front desk know that they’re experiencing homelessness, or at risk for that situation, and want to speak to someone about it. They’ll immediately reach out to Derek or myself, and if we’re available we’ll come downstairs and meet with that person right away. Sometimes one or both of us might not be on-site – we may be out doing outreach or home visits, for example – so the guest is given our phone number to establish contact that we quickly follow up on.
When we first meet with someone there’s an assessment process to determine their needs, how we can help them, and what the best resources for their situation may be. Everyone’s situation is unique and is best served by an individualized approach, this is where we gain that understanding to best help them. We also use this opportunity to get them into the HMIS (Homeless Management Information System) database for well informed follow ups of their care as well as providing accurate data for the overall picture of demographics and general locations of those experiencing homelessness in New Hampshire. That data is crucial for resource management, for properly directing funding and justifying grants, and really providing the most accurate picture of the scope and scale of our homeless crisis.
What kind of help can you offer on–site?
We have a pretty wide variety of ways we can help – first of all, we can get the ball rolling by helping the individual/family to apply for supportive housing vouchers, the Bridge program through the state, and on the list for housing vouchers from New Hampshire Housing. Unfortunately that’s quite a long process – most town housing authorities are currently working on a 3 to 5 year wait list, and New Hampshire Housing’s is even longer. So it’s important to get into that system as early as possible, and in the meantime, there are lots of other ways CLM can provide assistance.
Derek and I can help people apply for Medicaid if they have no health insurance, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) food stamps to help them eat regularly, APTD (Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled) assistance for the disabled, cash assistance if they have no income. We’ve helped plenty of people apply for social security – there are many people out there who qualify for and very much need these programs but unfortunately they don’t know how to get started, or are too overwhelmed by their situation to take those steps on their own. Once people are in our care and progressing with their case worker we can provide referrals for supportive employment and do our best to help them with success in their job hunt.
What kind of medical care resources are available?
The most obvious, of course, is connecting them directly with our own in-house mental health care services. Mental illness in all forms is very prevalent in the homeless community, it’s extra challenging to get back on your feet if you are homeless and have mental health issues as you most likely do not know where to turn for resources. This is where Center for Life Management’s mental health services come into play, to help individuals who are suffering with mental health issues get services if they are found eligible.
A lot of clients who come to us in crisis have not been taking very good care of their physical health because they’re more worried about their housing stability and possibly their mental health situation. Once the ball gets rolling on addressing those issues, we can get them help with focusing on the physical health as well. We have partnered up with Lamprey Health Care to offer those services in-house – the accessibility is great for our clients because many of them do not have vehicles.
Are there other public resources you can recommend?
Calling 211. If someone you know is experiencing homelessness or they’re in crisis for whatever reason, it’s such an easy number to remember…call 211. It’s New Hampshire’s statewide referral service. They’ll take some basic info and route it to the appropriate “regional access point” – CLM is one of those access points – which will follow up with you to get some help.
If anyone is experiencing the thought of taking their life or someone knows of someone making this statement they can all so call the Suicide Hotline at 988, this is a national hotline for everyone and anyone.
It is unusual for this level of public service to be based out of a private mental healthcare facility. How did Center for Life Management come to offer this program?
A gentleman named Barry Quimby got this all going 20+ years ago. He was very dedicated to helping those who were the most vulnerable, especially the homeless population suffering from mental illness. He applied for PATH outreach program with the goals of gettingthehomeless individuals/families off the street, with the goal of getting them housed if eligible and not only providing proper care for their issues but teaching how to effectively deal with the problems.
People in crisis often depend on hospital emergency rooms for all of their healthcare because it looks like the easiest way to deal with their problems, but that is not how hospitals work and it clogs up emergency services and wastes millions of dollars. By getting people off the streets and connected with the mental health and primary care services that they need, we break the cycle of perpetual “emergency” care. These problems can be dealt with much more successfully and efficiently with positive results not just for the client but for the public as well.
What do you enjoy about the work you do?
Seeing the positive change in the people and families we help. When you first meet them, they’re down and out, they’re not smiling, they’re dealing with a very difficult and upsetting situation. After spending some time working with them you see the complete change of their demeanor as they realize they’re making progress, their problems are not insurmountable and they’ve got support on their side. Our clients become very appreciative… I’ve had some completely dumbfounded, just asking me “is this really happening?” You’re helping them get the wins they need. I know it’s difficult because they’ve often been in a helpless position for a long time but, if they’re working for it, those wins are really happening.
In the end there’s a tremendous amount of gratitude that most clients feel when we’ve helped them. They almost always reach out to show us how they’re continuing their success, you can hear a lot of pride in their progress. Unfortunately there’s no 100% success rate, some people hit a bump in the road for one reason or another or are too stuck in their old negative behavior patterns, but we do the best we can for every client every day. At the end of the day I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to help these individuals and families, to give them the support they need to get them back on track and living a good life.
Pictured: Team members (l to r): Kelly Urban-Patterson, Tammy Hodge, Derek Foxwell and Angie Moran.