Archive for April, 2008

The Center for Respite Care has a newly-launched permanent housing program (Respite Permanent Housing or RPH)that provides scattered-site placements for clients with disabilities.  Fourteen of twenty available slots have currently been filled with clients that are working with our case manager and/or housing counselor to become self-sufficient.

Once clients obtain employment or Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Income (SSI/SSDI), they transition off the program.  Along the way, they are taught skills in budgeting, basic daily living (cleaning, cooking, bus transportation, etc.), and life skills.

I sat down with Kathy Miller, our Housing Coordinator, to get a behind-the-scenes look at life on the front lines of RPH.

Q: So, why is there a need for the services you provide?  Let’s start with housing.

A: Well, the clients in my program are disabled.  The majority are unable to work, have applied for SSI or SSDI, or are looking for employment.  This isn’t a permanent housing program: our primary goal is self-sufficiency.

Q: Ok, and as far as social service needs, what kinds of skills do you teach?

A: We cover basic daily living skills including budgeting, making a grocery list, and using public transportation.  Our funds and resources are limited, but we do devote a case manager or housing coordinator to each client to help them develop a case management plan. 

Q: I think a lot of our readers will wonder why an adult would need to learn these skills.  Can you explain?

A: Our clients have different histories, but many have always depended on someone else to take care of them, so their skills are limited.  It may have been a parent early on and later a spouse.  Some have been homeless for so long that they forgot those skills, or the world has simply changed to the point where they need to relearn them.”

Q: What are some other barriers clients face?

A: Communication is a big issue.  Clients are often isolated from family and friends for so long that they lose communication skills.  There’s a different level of slang and communication on the streets than there is in other parts of society. 

Our housing team is an indefatigable duo (as in just two!) that take care of all these services for our clients.  They select appropriate clients from Respite, recruit understanding landlords, oversee the distribution of donated furniture and kitchen supplies, organize moving days, make follow-up visits, case plans, and everything in between. 


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Last night, the Center for Respite Care received the Caracole Living Award during Caracole’s 2008 Annual Meeting.  Caracole is an agency that provides safe, affordable housing and support services for persons and families living with HIV/AIDS.  We love the friendly staff at Caracole and work closely with them – men and women with HIV/AIDS often recover with us during periods of illness and then find more permanent housing with Caracole. 

Caracole celebrated its 21st anniversary this year, and we were proud to receive the award and to work with them every day.  As I mentioned in “A Circle of Help for the Homeless,” these piggy-backing efforts are so much more powerful that what we can accomplish individually.  The Center for Respite Care provides more intensive medical care that Caracole provides.  In turn, Caracole offers long-term housing solutions that Respite does not.  Rather than duplicating services, we work together.

Many thanks to Caracole for this honor and a fantastic evening!  On a personal note, I would like to mention that their catering was so outstanding that I’ll provide a link to them as well: Jeff Thomas Catering

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We’ve had a few clients come back over the past couple of days to visit and let us know they’re doing well.  It’s such a great feeling to know that such a large portion of those who heal with us stay off the streets! 

One client told me during an interview that one of the biggest misconceptions about homelessness is how difficult it is to escape.  That is to say, once you’re homeless, a vicious cycle begins that keeps you there.  For example, if you have no permanent address and no place to clean up, it’s pretty tough to find a job.

But help doesn’t come just from one place.  Even the clients that go directly into housing after leaving the Center for Respite Care use many resources along the way.  Social workers a free clinics, shelters, or other agencies refer these homeless and sick individuals to us.  Hospitals provide free prescriptions and medical care.  Friends and family sometimes pitch in for transportation needs.  Faith-based organizations provide spiritual support.  Agencies in the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Continuum of Care for the Homeless provide the many steps along the way for our clients as they make committments to ongoing medical treatment and/or job placement. 

There’s a saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Well, it takes a lot of nonprofits to help a homeless person get back on their feet.  I don’t think most people realize that.  Even while clients are staying with us, they use the services of Hamilton County Job and Family Services, the FreestoreFoodbank, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the McMicken Dental Center, New Life Furniture, and the Crossroads Clinic, to name just a few.  We depend as much on other agencies for specific needs as they do on us for medical care. 

It’s all about not duplicating services – the more we can work together, the more we can help. 

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Respite employee Cleon Hughes was once homeless; Photo courtesy of Jack Kues

Cleon Hughes is something of an unofficial Center for Respite Care spokesman.  Years ago, he arrived at Respite as a homeless and sick; today he works with us.   At our Community Reception on April 10, Hughes shared his story. 


During a semi-professional football try-out in December 2005, Hughes sustained a serious leg injury.  Unable to work and without medical insurance, he became homeless as he sought surgery to repair the injury.


Months passed, but no one was able to help.  Hughes became bitter, wondering if he could ever gain meaningful employment and housing.  After six months at the Mt. Airy Men’s shelter, he was referred to the Center for Respite Care in June 2006.  Respite staff worked with Hughes to schedule the surgical procedure and cared for him during his recovery.  Today, Hughes has recovered full functionality of his right leg.


“I got to the Respite and I could not believe that all these strangers were pulling for me,” says Hughes, “Without them, I’d don’t know where I’d be today.  Being able to recover here was truly a blessing.”  Today, Hughes is a Personal Care Assistant at Respite, where he helps others regain hope in their journeys out of homelessness.


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