Sheltering someone entails more than just the standard dictionary definition, says to a social worker who ought to know.
Linda Hulme and two co-workers manage 70-plus cases each at the single men's homeless shelter. In that role, she tries to assess what homeless and frequently jobless men need to return to the mainstream of society."Our goal," she said, "is getting these people out into the community."
Hundreds of men pass through the shelter every year, some staying three months, others only a day. Case management began only in June, and it's impossible, Hulme said, to work intensively with everyone.
Caseworkers are available when someone wants to meet with them. At the new shelter, which will open at the end of the month, they will try to "catch everyone, at least initially," she said.
"When someone comes in, we will talk to them and do an initial assessment, find out about their goals and needs. Then we'll try to develop plans around helping them meet those goals."
Assessment and networking with resources are the key components to her job. Case managers help arrange necessary medical care; refer clients to Job Service and other agencies for temporary and permanent jobs; and direct and sometime escorts people to Valley Storefront for mental health services. Case managers also send clients to Social Services for grant and benefits assistance, to food pantries and thrift stores, to soup kitchen and to alcohol and drug treatment programs.
"Whatever they need to start putting things together," Hulme said.
Most of the homeless, she said, want to work - and many are working at temporary jobs but find it impossible to save enough to get an apartment. Some once had jobs with good salaries until oil fields and other industries dried up. Many need retraining to rejoin the work force. Others just need someone to talk to.
Hulme doesn't believe mental illness is a common barrier for men at the shelter. "Those with mental health problems are in the minority. But the whole situational thing about being homeless and jobless can make anyone depressed.
The shelter's need, according to Hulme, is community support.
"These men need the things that help you stay in one place, like friends," she said.