The CCANO team at Sacred Heart Apartments have a special bond. Shayla Kaywood, Ray Davis, Dorothy McKnight, and Ashanti Edwards serve and treat each of their clients with dignity and respect. The coworkers are like a family, supporting each other over the years and facing challenges as a team. Ms. Dorothy and Mr. Ray have been at Sacred Heart since it opened and welcomed Shayla and Ashanti with open arms.
Sacred Heart Apartments provide intensive care management, counseling, client advocacy, life skills, conflict resolution, and more to their clients. The participants face a number of obstacles, including ongoing mental health treatments, adjusting to living independently after being homeless for years, increased relapse occurrences, financial management, personal accountability, etc. “A lot of our clients have mental health issues that are undiagnosed like psychosis with hallucinations and delusions. If they have been diagnosed, it is most likely with depression and anxiety, but we have found that bipolar disorder has been inaccurately overdiagnosed,” shares Shayla Kaywood, Program Director.
The team regularly finds themselves confronting misconceptions about the people they work with. “The homeless population is often misunderstood because we take for granted the simple luxuries we overlook in our day to day lives. After being homeless for so long, a lot of our clients have a hard time adjusting even though they now have an apartment. We try to assure them that they can actually lay in their beds instead of the floor, relax on the couch, or even watch tv. We provide supportive services like budgeting because they have not had enough money in the past to actually have to decide how to spend or save,” says Shayla.
For instance, one of the ways staff assists clients with transitioning is with food storage. Sacred Heart Apartment clients have not had access to a refrigerator for so long that staff needs to teach them about perishable versus nonperishable food items. “We have found some of our clients set up their refrigerators as if it is a pantry. A lot of our work is reteaching basic skills,” reflects Kaywood.
Recently, six clients completed a ten week program addressing spiritual wellness, physical health, nutrition, exercise, medication management, and meal prep. The clients received certificates of completion at a culminating celebration. “I was so proud of how committed our group was to attending each session and following through on meal prep and nutrition. There were two women in the program who really struck me with how significantly they changed. They became so much healthier, they lost weight, and became so much more confident. One of them really opened up and came out of her shell. I saw her grow more sociable because she was consistently getting to know the other participants in a supportive environment,” says Shayla.
A fellow Sacred Heart staff member was able to coach one of the participants, “Janet,” in regards to her hygiene. Janet had been homeless for over five years and considered a traveller, so she did not have access to running water. Ms. Dorothy talked her through a hygiene routine and even bought a Bath and Body Works kit of shower gel and lotion out of her own pocket.
“Something I want others to understand is that our clients didn’t necessarily choose to live on the street and be homeless. Our staff here goes above and beyond for the residents. We take pride in all of them and extend ourselves to help out even if we are not the primary case manager in charge of their case. We love being able to support participants with maintaining housing and self-sufficiency so that they can live their best lives,” concludes Kaywood.
Sacred Heart Apartments play an important role in addressing homelessness in our community, and the CCANO leaders appreciate the dedicated staff members who honor our clients’ strengths, help them grow in areas of need, and celebrate each small victory.