CCANO’s Bethlehem Housing addresses the root causes of homelessness through intensive case management.
Bethlehem Housing’s efforts to eradicate homelessness in South Louisiana have made a profound impact this year in partnership with other service providers in the community such as UNITY and Hotel Hope in the continuum of care to fill gaps in services. When families experiencing homelessness are referred to Bethlehem Housing, staff members move them through three stages of security. First, short-term emergency shelter is ensured. Next, case managers establish rapid rehousing and rent assistance. While moving the family from a shelter to a home is a step in the right direction, there is still a need for long-term stability. The third step is to stabilize housing through high impact services to increase the client’s quality of life and ensure he or she has skills to navigate future expenses and life management. This is not a speedy process and can take anywhere between 9 to 12 months.
Bethlehem Housing employs wrap-around, holistic services by collaborating with other CCANO programs like Integrated Workforce Services to address the family’s long-term sustainability. CCANO’s Economic Success Coach works with families on financial goals and coaching in partnership with GNOF, the Financial Clinic, and CCUSA. He examines the skills and strengths that the client already possesses to find the best-suited means of income. This is an empowering approach that uses growth mindset instead of putting the client in a position of weakness and the staff member in a position of power. Traditional 9 to 5 jobs are not necessarily the best fit for the families enrolled in the program. Since many clients are mothers with young children who are not yet of school age, childcare is a huge concern when considering job prospects. Fortunately, families are plugged in to CCANO’s Early Head Start programs.
Clients come from a diverse background. In August, CCANO housed a mom, her 14-year-old daughter, and 1-year-old son in New Orleans East. As a former employee of a local homeless shelter, she fell on hard times and was no longer able to maintain housing. After starting work with case managers, she took the initiative to find an apartment that would be a good fit for her family and their future success. They were able to move in at the end of July in time for the daughter to start high school in a much more settled home environment.
“One of our clients lost her job and was at her wit’s end about how to move forward to provide for her family. We immediately connected her to our Economic Success Coach, and within a day, she had job leads and secured next month’s rent. I watched her leave the office walking taller, the burden of crisis visibly lifted off her shoulders. I’m honored and inspired to bear witness to what is potentially our clients’ lowest moments and then the subsequent belief that there is hope for a brighter future,” shares Lauren Coudrain Zeringue, Project Director.
Implementing a Holistic Approach
In June, Bethlehem Housing housed a young mother on the North Shore who has two small children, one of whom has special needs. She was fleeing domestic violence and had limited options. After obtaining safe, temporary shelter, staff members located an apartment for the family and were able to provide information about food banks and other services to help her make ends meet. She successfully moved into her new apartment with her children on July 1st.
“It has been such a relief to leave the hotel and be in a space of our own where the kids can run around and play without fear. Ms. Trinna (CCANO Lead Case Manager) has been so helpful. It almost feels like she’s my mom because when I need someone to talk to, she is always there for me without judgement,” says Jessica, a Bethlehem Housing client who has benefitted from this holistic approach by utilizing CCANO’s counseling and Medicaid enrollment services.
Another client, “Rachel,” was living in emergency shelter when she first enrolled with Bethlehem Housing. Through Hotel Hope, she and her eleven-year-old son were able to move into transitional housing in a duplex uptown, and she worked with CCANO staff on mock job interviews and resume building. “What really struck home with me was when she connected her desire to find employment with her desire to provide a financially steady home for her son,” said Economic Success Coach, Andrew Romaner. With her transitional housing ending, Bethlehem Housing stepped in to keep Rachel and her son in their house as her job search continued. Just a few days later, she was offered a position in her chosen field only a few blocks from home. Rachel has seen her hopes come to fruition, sharing, “The range of services and help I was able to receive from Catholic Charities has been such a blessing for me and my son.”
Bethlehem Housing staff continue to meet with other practitioners to share proven solutions, adapt to local challenges, and leverage funding to make the most impact on a systemic level. Addressing homelessness does not come with a quick fix or simple solution. Instead, it takes innovation and collaboration to start moving the needle towards a healthier community.