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Transition in Place Program: Helping Families Find a Place to Call Home
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New Haven Home Recovery’s Transition in Place Program is designed to help single mothers and their children who are experiencing homelessness. Jocelyn Antunes, Supportive Housing Program Coordinator, shares some the biggest challenges she has encountered, as well as the successes she is most proud of.
Transition in Place Program

“Every child deserves a safe place to live, and parents deserve to know where their next meal is coming from.”

Jocelyn Antunes, Supportive Housing Program Coordinator of New Haven Home Recovery (NHHR), shares how her program helps to meet the needs of clients and their families in her community. In Connecticut, where the cost of living is one of the highest in the nation, families have been hit especially hard by the recession. Often rent prices are not feasible, especially for a single parent.

The New Haven Home Recovery network provides support and outreach to women and their children who are experiencing homelessness. NHHR’s mission resonated with Jocelyn. Prior to joining NHHR, Jocelyn’s work as a case manager helped her realize that mental health and substance use often go hand in hand, and that supportive housing plays a critical role in sustained recovery. A big part of what attracted Jocelyn to NHHR was that the CEO, Kellyann Day, has a background in social work and direct client interaction. Kellyann’s experiences helped her to create an environment that “empowers both her employees and their clients.”

A cornerstone of the three housing support programs that make up NHHR is the two-year subsidized housing program, Transition In Place Program (TIPP). While the other two programs serve about 70 clients who are chronically homeless and who have substance use and mental health issues, TIPP serves about 10 independent families who are able to maintain a household, but are struggling financially. For many of these families, this is the first time they have been homeless, most often due to job loss.

Families in TIPP come from one of the four family shelters run by NHHR. These families are provided with a security deposit for an apartment in the community. The program includes a decreasing subsidy: the first three months are paid in full by NHHR, and then the client pays an increasing share. By the end of their second year in the program, clients are expected to pay the full amount of rent. Caseworkers concurrently implement evidence-based practices, such as Motivational Interviewing, Critical Time Intervention,  and person-centered planning. Together with their clients, caseworkers create a supportive housing action plan to help clients meet their goals. The ultimate goal is for the client to be gainfully employed, able to pay their full rent, and to provide for their children by the end of the program.

New Haven is a small city with coordinated services available to help connect families to the services they most need. This coordination means that NHHR caseworkers have a large network of providers that they can direct their clients to for additional support. A client rarely requires only housing; typically the client has other issues and needs to be addressed, and goals they would like to achieve.

Another critical component of NHHR is their advocacy for the well-being and education of the children in their program. Homelessness often results in children being taken out of their original school after the loss of their home. NHHR works with schools to ensure that they are adhering to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, so that children who have become homeless are able to stay in the same school.

NHHR identifies the mother as the primary client; however, Jocelyn underlines the importance of treating the family as a unit, always looking for additional resources for the children, such as tutoring and schooling. Additionally, NHHR connects their clients to courses to help them further develop their parenting skills. These programs have successfully decreased the involvement of the Department of Child Services, which Jocelyn sees this as one of their program’s major achievements.

The most fulfilling part of the job for Jocelyn is the many success stories her clients share after leaving the program. One of her permanent supportive housing clients moved south, where she purchased her own home after completing the program. Another client won a trip to Disney World for her son from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. But perhaps the greatest success is when former clients give back to the agency by volunteering.

It is the compassion of Jocelyn and her colleagues that ensures the continued success of New Haven Home Recovery: “If you’re working with families, understand that there is one identified client, but [you] treat the family as a whole. You can’t just serve the mom because, if you do, you can see the cycle begin again. You [must] help the children develop and explore to become the individuals they want to be. Not knowing where to live or having a roof over your head, I can’t imagine anything more stressful than that.”

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