We are delighted to share an ongoing success story involving Crystal, a client at CHI’s Port Jefferson Station Supervised Family Residence (SFR), who recently enrolled in the Medical Assistant Program at Hunter Business School (HBS) where she will receive a medical assistant certification in seven months. Crystal’s education will be fully funded by HBS, and she has been given an iPad to be used to complete her coursework. Classes began June 1, and Crystal is off to a running start.

This is the story of a motivated and determined single mom, who has faced many obstacles, but continues to drive herself forward to attain her goals. This is also a story that demonstrates the power of CHI’s unique SFR program and the CHI staff that make it work. This scattered-site model for homeless housing, which is provided within existing houses and coupled with attentive one-on-one case management provided by Shelter Managers, gives SFR families the stability and resources they need to achieve social and economic independence.

Crystal and her very active two-year old son have been residents at CHI’s SFR for over a year. Crystal has concentrated her efforts on gaining the stability in her life to be able to move out of the shelter and live independently in a home of her own with her son. At times, she has held two jobs at once, working late into the evening to amass enough savings to put her closer to her goal of economic independence. Despite her determination and hard work, there have been circumstances beyond her control that have delayed her progress — such as when the landlord of an apartment she planned to lease gave the apartment to another family, or the fact that she had to quit her job in order to take care of her son when his daycare was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is where CHI’s SFR program comes in. In support of Crystal, CHI’s Shelter Manager, Erin Honan, reached out to the Coalition for the Homeless to see if Crystal could participate in the Rapid Rehousing Program; however, the program has temporarily suspended placements in permanent housing as a result of the coronavirus shut down. Despite this setback, Erin and Crystal continued to have weekly face-to-face meetings (with all appropriate social distancing protocols in place). During one of these meetings, Crystal indicated that she would like to enroll in the Hunter Business School’s Medical Assistant Program. Crystal made a call to the school to determine what steps were needed to enroll in the program. Erin and Crystal worked together to complete the necessary forms for enrollment, which were sent to HBS and the Department of Labor, in order for Crystal to meet the May 29th deadline. Shortly thereafter, Crystal found out she was approved!

The next step was working on how Crystal would manage both her school and childcare responsibilities. All Crystal’s coursework is currently online; however, she would not be able to concentrate on taking her classes and studying with a young child at her feet. Crystal sat in Erin’s office, and they called up the New York State Department of Social Services and the Department of Labor to see if Crystal could get approval for childcare. Erin and Crystal faxed over the necessary documentation, made a few more phone calls, and Crystal was approved for daycare for her son. Crystal’s son started his new daycare on May 29. The daycare program is solely for essential workers and students. This fortunate turn of events provides alone-time for Crystal to get her schoolwork done, and it provides a much-needed respite for Crystal’s son, who has been isolated in his room at the shelter for over two months because of the coronavirus quarantine. Crystal has been informed that she will be able to go back to her job in July and will continue to work with Erin to find suitable permanent housing so she can attain her goal to live independently in permanent housing.

We are so proud of Crystal and the achievements she has made while with CHI. We are also proud of of CHI Shelter Managers, such as Erin. The job of Shelter Manager is both challenging and rewarding. Through CHI’s SFR program, Shelter Managers serve dual roles — as supervisors and case managers. Shelter Managers provide extensive case management to homeless families and single adults in the shelters they oversee. Their case management responsibilities include assisting their assigned clients with permanent housing, budgeting, making referrals to mental and physical health, assisting with employment searches, and so on. Shelter Managers work closely with the Department of Social Services and act as a liaison between the local county Department of Social Services and the clients. In addition, the Shelter Managers manage a team of five Resident Support Staff (RSS’s) who watch over the shelter during off-hours and weekends. The Shelter Manager provides support and guidance in the operation of the shelter when not on-site and assists staff with trainings and mentorship.