Best Practices Brainstorm

Calling all Case Managers, Program Managers, former program participants, or any other persons who have been involved with a Permanent Supportive Housing Program!

I am seeking feedback on the challenges faced and best practice strategies that have been faced and utilized by persons who have been involved with operating long-term supportive housing programs for chronically homeless persons. I currently manage such a program and could always use new ideas. It is a tough program to run, but success is possible! Maybe you are also working in such a program and feel you need support or ideas-let me know your challenges!

Write me a comment or let me know your thoughts through my contact page!

Thanks all!

Mandy

 

 

Political Social Work: Measure 105

There has been much back and forth in recent days in the US about the concept of sanctuary states or sanctuary cities. The most simple way to describe the concept of a sanctuary city/state is a city or state that has chosen not to use city or state law enforcement resources on those who have not committed a crime, but may be in violation of federal immigration law. Essentially, local and state resources are determined not to be used to enforce federal, civil, immigration law.

As many of my readers know, I practice social work in Oregon. Oregon is one of the oldest sanctuary states, passing the law to enact this status back in 1987. This November, Oregon’s status as a sanctuary state will be challenged by ballot measure 105.

Regardless of what one thinks about immigration law, this measure would have some deep implications for our everyday communities. This would include the fact that one could be stop, detained, or questioned just because they are thought to possibly be undocumented. That is what makes this political issue a social work issue at its heart.

The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession’s focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living. – NASW Code of Ethics Preamble

In my mind, voting against measure 105 is a step to opposing an “environmental force” that will create “problems in living” for many community members here in Oregon. Therefore, this issue has become professional and I must do what I can to oppose it.

Thoughts? Disagreements? Drop me a line.

 

Want to support a group that is organizing against this measure? Check out the link below. Oregonians United Against Profiling

 

Mandy

Pocket Resource: Strength’s Perspective

Last year, I visited Mount St. Helens with my dad. You can still see a clear path of the “blast zone” from the giant 1980’s eruption. While recovery is slow, remarkably the area has shown great resilience in rebounding from the cataclysmic event.

In social work, every day we encounter people that have  their own personal  version of a cataclysmic event.

In my area of practice, this event is usually a slide into homelessness. Among all the tools we have as social workers to assist each client in their own personal recovery effort, use of the Strength’s Perspective is one of the most effective. With that said, I have created a quick pocket resource guide social workers can use to incorporate strengths into their work.

*Side note: I have also used this pocket guide when I worked in medical social work to educate my medical field coworkers about how to work from the Strength’s Perspective with patients.

Link to the file for download below. Hope you find it useful!

Mandy

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Strength’s Perspective Pocket Guide

Something Worth Keeping

I want to highlight this fact: It is possible to end homelessness.

In the meantime, there are people in your community who may die on the street this year. It happens , all the time. That means we have to capitalize on the solutions we know work.

One of the most proven tools to ending long-term homelessness is the Housing First idea-basically an apartment, no strings attached.

60 minutes has a must watch video if you want to understand how this idea works. Here is a clip of the most essential footage.

 

“We are paying more as tax payers to walk past that person on the street and do nothing than to just give them an apartment.”

I have worked in the homelessness field for about four years. I have seen this idea work and I am convinced that it is the most successful model to end long-term homelessness.

The most surprising part about working in this field was the anger from communtity members I would encounter when I explain this idea. The anger is stemming from the idea that persons in these programs are receiving an apartment that they haven’t earned or somehow don’t deserve. To my constant surprise, I’ve been  harrassed and called names for advocating this model.

But at the end of the day, I think about those persons experiencing long-term homelessness that I was with on their move-in day. Many have the same reaction. They stare at the key to their new apartment. They remark how strange it is to have a key and how long it has been since they had something that required a lock, something that belonged to them. Many that do have challenges with mental illness, addiction, or other issues are motivated, sometimes for the first time ever to seek help.

They are motivated because now they have something worth keeping.

Mandy

P.S. I will be posting ways to support Housing First services and funding in coming days. Keep an eye out!

 

Know Thyself

Before I became interested in social work, I was a philosophy major. I was drawn to people who thought deeply about the world and themselves.

I was drawn to social work, not only because it was an active way for me  to be a part of making the world closer to the full potential I see, but also because social work is a profession (much like philosophy) that has a value of knowing deeply. In the Code of Ethics, we are held to a standard of knowing our work deeply- the value of competence. But just as important, we are called to know ourselves deeply and continue to examine our motives, bias, reactions, and internal states. Cue Socrates (but hold the hemlock)!

I found a lot of insight through working with my own therapist to understand the root of my anxiety issues (see previous post When Helper’s Need Help) but there is a lot of other ways to engage in self-reflection. As simple as it may sound, one of the most helpful exercises for myself in the past year was the Enneagram personality test. I actually completed the test and discussed it within the context of therapy.

It provided many insights about myself and the relationships that surrounded me, but mostly it acted as a catalyst to take time to examine myself.

Each Enneagram type is attached to a basic fear and basic desire that tend to drive that type. In the interest of being vulnerable, my Enneagram Type is 4, which indicates the following:

  • Basic Fear: That they have no identity or personal significance
  • Basic Desire: To find themselves and their significance (to create an
    identity)

Upon reflection, I found this to be very true of myself. This wasn’t just helpful for my personal life, but also caused me to reflect how my personality intersects with social work. For example, if my basic desire is to create an identity for myself of significance, am I attempting to do this through my work? If I am attempting to “create” myself through my work, then how could my focus be on where it really should be- on quality service provision? These are all lines of inquiry that opened after taking time to explore my personality through this outlet.

Interested in exploring the Enneagram?  The best site I have found is at Enneagram Institute

How do you you continue to know yourself and  how has that knowledge changed your work?

Drop me a line.

When Helpers Need Help

panicI’ve heard my friend’s with various anxiety disorders describe the feeling of a panic attack in different ways, although around a cluster of similar systems. For  me, it is simple to describe.

It feels like I’m dying. Not in the figurative way. In the literal, I’m having a heart attack call an ambulance kind of way. And I have- called an ambulance- and had them tell me that nothing is wrong and been left feeling silly, with only a big medical bill to show for it.

Ironically enough, it was during the time period in my life that I was trying to become the best helper I could be that I had to reach out for help myself. 

Right after finishing my BSW, I worked for a summer  and saved enough to buy my first car. I put everything I owned in it and  moved 2,000 miles from Oregon to Chicago to start a new job. I was excited to start building my social work experience and to see a brand new part of the country. I had no friends or family in Chicago, although I would meet some of the best people I know by the time I was finished. I also didn’t understand how to exist in a city, or in the snow for that matter. I trusted people I shouldn’t have. I put myself in dangerous situation without even realizing what was happening. I never had enough money for food after paying rent and 1,000 other little stressors like this built up.

After a year of working in a housing and homelessness services agency, I decided to get my MSW at UIC. Financially, I needed to keep my job while I attended school, but I felt confident in my time management skills. I commuted each night after work on the blue line to UIC and back home around 11pm each night. I would do homework until 2am and start again at 6am. I also started the infamous unpaid social work internship at a wonderfully vibrant community center on the Westside. 20 hours a week on the weekends and evenings when I didn’t have class. I was coping and moving along. I did that for 6 months. Then all of the sudden, I wasn’t coping anymore.

I started having horrific panic attacks. A lot of them. It started to effect my work, then my school. I made a doctor’s appointment and was diagnosed with panic disorder by my MD. He started medication and I knew counseling would make it more effective. But who has the time for another appointment or the money for co-pays? It was strange to learn about the medication I was taking and read about panic disorder in my DSM for class, while also having this visceral embodiment of the disorder.

I was that overwhelmed client that we all wish would just make time to take care of their mental health. 

It took a long time to start feeling better. I took the medication. I employed on myself all those self-talk strategies we learn. But still there were times when I was so convinced that I was dying that I thought ” I might as well kill myself and so I don’t have to go through all this fear before it happens.” It sounds melodramatic now, but it seemed logical in the moment.

A lot of little things helped along the way. Phone calls from my dad to walk me through some of the worst attacks, a casserole my coworker made me during finals, kind words of encouragement from my boyfriend and my supervisors. All were incredibly meaningful and brought me through to graduation.

Looking back, that time was an important part of my education. Just as much as what I learned in all my MSW coursework. I learned how to practice social work, while also reaching out for help for my own struggles. I learned that I have limits, that  at times what I want to achieve surpasses the limits of what is healthy from my brain and body.

I know many social workers can relate to the paradox of being the helper who also needs help. I feel you.

Mandy