Editor’s note: we don’t just do performance arts here at the Long Center. This winter, we’ve teamed up with Texas Gas Service and Caritas of Austin for a campaign called Share the Warmth. This program helps senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and those having trouble covering their home heating expenses to pay for home heating costs and stay warm throughout the winter. It helps Texans in 33 counties, and as the weather turns colder, can literally be a lifesaver for those with financial hardship. We’re happy to be able to be a part of this campaign, and we’re also happy to share with you this guest blog post from a case manager at Caritas of Austin, a nonprofit organization that helps men, women, and children in Travis County who are experiencing homelessness and poverty meet their needs and achieve self-sufficiency.
At 7:30 a.m., I arrive at my office, located in the apartment complex where my clients live and prepare to start the day. As a Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Case Manager I meet with clients daily to offer support and guidance.
My first clients of the morning normally come in on time – it’s rare for me to need to remind them to meet their appointments. Most of them have adopted the habit of being early birds. Even better – some have developed a morning routine. It could start with a morning walk, with a stop by my office on their way to breakfast or a shower, or it could be that our case management meeting helps them start the day. Developing a routine is a big step for our clients who are living in Permanent Supportive Housing. Many of these clients lived in very unstable situations for years and being able to create a daily routine can help them move towards achieving a safer, more reliable lifestyle.
Of course, the routine and good habits do not form in one day, month, or sometimes even one year. After all, these clients’ stories are not fairy tales. After the experience of homelessness it’s not surprising that some of our clients need to relearn skills for daily living as well as the meaning of being “ at home” rather than “homeless.”
Being onsite with the client allows me to address their needs and provide them with consultations. Regular case management meetings provide them with a place to share and discuss ways to achieve their goals. My job as a Caritas of Austin PSH Case Manager is to support and assist my clients to reach and maintain these goals. It all takes time, effort and commitment to rebuild the “home” in our clients’ hearts.
A client might have a need they want to talk about, and sometimes even a crisis. Calming their anxiety and normalizing the situation may be the first step. Sometimes a client might have a question about daily skills that most people who have never been homeless would take for granted. Sharing daily living skills and providing daily living supplies are often a part of case management support, in addition to providing housing financial assistance.
Helping my clients to reach and maintain their housing goals goes beyond providing material assistance. Sometimes the support I offer might be teaching a client how to do laundry, how to use a dishwasher, or how to use a vacuum cleaner. It could also mean teaching a client about the responsibilities of being a tenant and importance of making regular on-time rental payments.
Much care, support, and resources can be shared by a Case Manager. The beauty of PSH case management is to witness the little achievements clients make for themselves.
At 5:30p.m., I prepare to end my day. Walking by clients’ units and seeing them sitting on their front porches enjoying the sunset, I know it took them a while to get to where they are now. We are proud of their achievements and are glad we are able to support and witness their accomplishments.
-A Caritas of Austin Permanent Supportive Housing Case Manager