Growing Stronger with Personal Recovery Services
This article appeared in the winter edition of our News from HOME newsletter. You can read the full newsletter online here. If you don’t receive News from HOME and would like to subscribe, click here.
When David Green moved into Project HOME’s Connelly House residence, it was a great refuge from life on the streets that had been his home for all too long. But he was struggling, without some of the basic skills and supports to enable him to maintain independent living. Before long, he had to move to the more supportive residence, Kairos House—and he also opted to participate in Personal Recovery Services (PRS), a new program at Project HOME.
David began working with PRS staff person Eunid Mann, and over time learned such skills as food shopping, laundry, house cleaning, and management of his medication. Last spring, David moved into his own apartment. Today, he is successfully and proudly living on his own.
Since our earliest days, we at Project HOME recognized that persons experiencing chronic homelessness needed housing – but not just housing. Given complex issues of physical and behavioral health as well as deep internal wounds from sometimes years on the streets, support services were just as critical.
Two-and-a-half years ago, Project HOME’s approach to that support took a radical shift. Like most human services programs, we started with a case management model where specific staff connected to one site worked with a group of assigned residents. In 2013, we supplemented the residential casemanagers with new PRS approach.
Personal Recovery Services is Project HOME’s version of psychiatric rehabilitation services, a person-centered, evidence-based practice that has gained increasing credence in the professional behavioral health field and among policy makers. In this model, a mobile team of specially trained team members travel to all sites. Team members work one-on-one with eligible individuals who request their services. The PRS staff member works in relationship with a specific resident, who chooses his or her goals. A resident may want to work on life skills, decision-making, specific anxieties that he or she believes are compromising personal progress. Together, the PRS staff member and the resident develop a specific and individualized plan to achieve the stated goals. The emphasis is on personal growth, individual choice, empowerment, and developing strengths and hope that can translate into real success.
“It was hard for both participants and staff to shift to the new model,” comments Jen O’Shea, director of Project HOME’s PRS program. “Now people are seeing that some of that difference is very good. We are able to focus on skill building and intentional tasks, and tailor our work to individual independence in a way our incredible caseworkers may not have time to do.”
In the traditional case management model, for example, a resident who had deep anxiety using public transit might be driven to an essential destination by a caseworker. Now, PRS staff work directly with the resident to find ways to cope and skills to overcome the anxiety, so that the resident eventually learns to use public transportation independently. The PRS team has helped residents in such areas as stress and symptom management, organization, socializing, basic living skills, and financial planning. The key to success is that each resident choses his or her own goals, and that the PRS staff member works by building on the strengths each resident already has.
“Caseworkers at each residence have an essential role, which can include focusing on the day-to-day, and crisis management,” observes Jen O’Shea. “When that is supplemented by PRS focusing on future, long-term goals, people have the opportunity to actually become more self-sufficient and independent. We are trying to work ourselves out of a job.”
“My PRS worker treats me with a lot of respect,” David Green says, “and I feel like I learned a lot of things to help me live responsibly in my apartment.” Now he is ready for the next challenge. “I am also learning skills for a job,” he says, with a glint of hope and enthusiasm in his eyes. He has been diligently working with PRS staff on work-readiness skills and will soon begin a janitorial training program – a step toward re-entering the workforce. “That is my next goal: to get a job.”