The Network recently submitted its final report on its six month contract extension ( October 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011).  Under the six month period, the Network agreed to house 11 chronically homeless individuals, resulting in a total of 42 individuals housed.  Over the course of the extension, the Network housed an additional 14 chronically homeless individuals, providing housing to a total of 45 chronically homeless individuals.   Thanks to The Brien Center, Mental Health Association and ServiceNet for exceeding their contract goals.

In addition to monthly reports on numbers served and network developments, the final submission included the following stories that capture the magnitude of the both the challenge and the success.

From Massachusetts Housing Alliance:

REACH outreach workers acting on a “tip” from a recently housed chronically homeless person who occasionally went “camping” to visit a friend, located Randy camping in a ravine called “the dingle” behind a shopping center on the edge of a Springfield inner city neighborhood.  His camp was well hidden, consisting of dark green tarps and plastic sheets covering bent saplings protecting old mattresses he had scavenged locally.   He had no income, no health insurance and no food stamps. He would talk of applying for these benefits but when workers arrived to take him to apply Randy usually could not be located in the woods or the shopping plaza.

Randy spent his days collecting cans, searching dumpsters, and seeking donations of food while avoiding arrest for trespassing.  Health Care for the Homeless and MHA REACH homeless outreach workers initiated an extended 2 year engagement process with Randy to allow him to consider the potential of moving into his own apartment.  Randy insisted he wanted to live outside but did contract with workers to go into homeless shelter when the winter weather became dangerous.  His last short winter stay in shelter he was able to apply for EAEDC and food stamps.  As soon as the weather slightly improved in early February he was back to his camp.

A REACH subsidized Shelter Plus Care apartment was designated for Randy but when the apartment was becoming available Randy could not be found.  It took 2 weeks of concerted searching in the snowy late winter woods to locate him as he was hiding due to his fear resulting from a new no trespass order.  Sitting in a cold March rain Randy decided to give apartment living another try.  Since moving into his apartment Randy applied for and was recently awarded SSI.  He has stayed current with his rent and has done well managing his money despite his active addiction to alcohol.   He is particularly proud of the money he saves by using coupons.  He often jokes that by using coupons the way he does “Stores practically pay me to take stuff off their shelves”.

Randy still faces the challenge of addressing his addiction and his untreated mental illness but his living situation is now stable, safe and he has a much better opportunity to address these challenges than when he was in the woods hiding and scratching out an existence from dumpsters.  Once in a while, Randy still goes “camping” outside but this is his choice for his own enjoyment of the outdoors as opposed to his past hour to hour, day to day survival.

Recently, encouraged by Randy’s example and REACH outreach support, one of Randy’s camping buddies successfully moved into a “Housing First” efficiency unit. He had been sleeping outside more than 10 years.   With the support of “Housing First” funding, that “tip” years before from a recently housed homeless person continues to pay dividends.

 From ServiceNet:

The most successful REACH client would have to be Chris W.   Chris had been living in and out of ServiceNet’s shelters for the last 5 years in Northampton.  Chris was recently placed in his own apartment through Home City Housing.  I am happy to say that he still has his place, pays his rent, gets along with his neighbors, does not cause any problems in the community and has successfully gotten services in place for himself. Mike Trembley still meets with CW twice a month and Paul Moroz has just recently reconnected with him. Chris W is a great example of a  successful client who with our help managed to turn things around for himself.

The most challenging REACH client would have to be Tom M. He has been placed in ServiceNet housing and is still battling alcoholism. He continues to drink but is also working on everything he needs to do to stop drinking.  With suppports from REACH workers and Housing Plus Program supports, we continue our road to harm reduction with Tom and am happy to share that he is still housed and continues to meet with his case manager and nurse.

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