Providing Homeless Services for the Whole Family

Learn how the New Reach network in Connecticut provides housing to single mothers and their children who are experiencing homelessness.

“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 Reach, formerly New Haven Home Recovery, shares how her program helps to meet the needs of her community's clients and their families. 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 Reach network provides support and outreach to women and their children who are experiencing homelessness. The group's mission resonated with Antunes. Her work as a case manager, prior to joining New Reach, 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 Antunes to New Reach was that the CEO, Kellyann Day, has a background in social work and direct client interaction. Day's experiences helped her create an environment that “empowers both her employees and their clients.”

Helping Families Gain Financial Independence

A cornerstone of the three housing support programs that make up New Reach 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 mental and/or substance use disorders, 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 New Reach. 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 New Reach, 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 New Reach caseworkers have a large network of providers to 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.

Treating the Family as a Unit

Another critical component of New Reach is its 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 losing their home. New Reach 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.

New Reach identifies the mother as the primary client; however, Antunes underlines the importance of treating the family as a unit, always looking for additional resources for the children, such as tutoring and schooling. Additionally, New Reach 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 Antunes sees this as one of their program’s major achievements.

The most fulfilling part of the job for Antunes 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 Antunes and her colleagues that ensures the continued success of New Reach: “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.”

Find current SAMHSA and other government agency resources on addressing the behavioral health and recovery of women, children, and families.

Access more behavioral health and homelessness resources.

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David Batuner
Last Updated: 04/19/2016