Words from Stephanie Boyce, MSW, Hands On Hartford Case Manager
Last August I began my journey as a supportive housing case manager to 15 individuals living in the greater Hartford area. A number of those individuals were experiencing homelessness. It was through the Connecticut Integrated Health Care and Housing neighborhoods project that the 15 individuals received a Rental Assistant Certificate to assist in obtaining housing. When I began this position 9 individuals had obtained housing. I am going to share my experience with one of the individuals that I worked very closely with to obtain housing.
Carol is a 51 year old African American woman. When I first met Carol we drove from Hartford across the state so that she could obtain her housing certificate. Carol was in a housing crisis, she had just left a shelter in Hartford due to difficulties with other people staying at the shelter. Carol had nowhere to stay that evening. Once Carol and I were back in Hartford we began to call other shelters to see if they had any openings. Unfortunately they did not. Carol was able to find a friend who could put her up at her house for a few nights. Over the next week Carol and I called several places every day to see if they had any openings. Finally, Carol was able to get into a shelter in a town near Hartford.
Over the next several months, Carol and this writer looked at apartments all throughout the Greater Hartford area. Even though Carol had a housing certificate, it was still extremely challenging to find an apartment. There are many landlords who require that prospective tenants have a certain income and no criminal history. Carol became very discouraged and did not think she would ever find an apartment. I kept reminding Carol, “there is a landlord out there that is willing to work with you and we just have to find that person!” A week later, we did.
Carol obtained her apartment in December of 2014. She is no longer in a housing crisis. She attends all of her medical and behavioral health appointments because she no longer has to spend all her time looking for a place to stay. Carol has a very spacious one bedroom apartment. Over the past 8 months, she has worked hard to make her apartment into her home. Every month we go to various stores so that she can buy household items such as a dining room table, a bed, sheets for that bed, and the list goes on. Carol has a place to call home.
Going through this process with not only Carol but 5 other individuals has been such a humbling experience that I find hard to explain, but I am going to try my best. The individuals that I have the pleasure of working with have changed my life. The process of finding an apartment cannot only be challenging but very frustrating. However, to see the smile on their face when they sign a lease and are given keys to their apartment is worth all of the frustration in the world. To be able to help and individual through the process of obtaining an apartment after experiencing homelessness is something I feel everyone should do. Working with the Connecticut Integrated Healthcare and Housing neighborhoods project has been such a wonderful experience and I continue to learn from the individuals that I work with.