As the story goes, at ICL we’ve been saying for quite a while, that Housing is much more than just a bed, some clean sheets and case management services. At ICL we believe that Housing is far more complex and that at the very core of all of our Housing is hope and relationship building. Today, these elements of recovery are not only a keen principle that we stand by, but an essential philosophical approach to care that ultimately leads to healing. We sort of view our Housing programs like a nice piece of CAKE with many layers and the essential ingredients being: (1) Collaboration; (2) Accountability; (3) Kindness; and (4) Excellence.
Housing is about forming partnerships and communicating regularly with friends and natural supports, treatment providers, community resources and family. It’s about working closely with care coordinators and recovery coaches. Housing is about creating a safe space for the individuals we serve. While these individuals are the drivers of their treatment it is the Housing staff that often plays the role of the gatekeeper. We collaborate with the court system and advocate for social justice and prison diversion. We work with CIRT teams and mobile crisis to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations. We work with psychiatrists and primary care doctors to help individuals mange symptoms and control A1C levels. Collaboration requires a firm commitment that there are no silos in housing and that there are multiple individuals committed to recovery. To collaborate means that there must be a philosophical approach that views individuals from a holistic standpoint. As a provider, you must be willing to see beyond the front door of the residence in an effort to help your resident step out. Parallel to this process is another key component of collaboration that involves all staff communicating with each other. Whether it’s thru, shift meeting or clinical rounds, supervision or case conferences, to be successful as a housing provider you must make room for all participants at the table. Housing staff do not work in vacuums. They are visiting PROS programs, calling clinicians and escorting individuals as they begin their job searches. They are the glue that keeps all staff together and true collaboration is invaluable.
A competent team of employees is paramount to having a successful program and accountability in housing starts with clear expectations.. Each employee must understand that what they do each day is important towards recovery. Our housing leadership works to foster an environment where staff are empowered to make decisions on their own, and not be afraid to make mistakes. Leaders appreciate when employees make decisions, and don’t wait for them to give them the solutions. Holding staff accountable leads to quality care as staff take pride in their work and the relationships they form with our tenants. True accountability in housing means that our leaders must establish clear objectives that can be measured and sustained. Our staff must truly believe that there are many paths to recovery and that the individuals we serve are complex. Staff must own their struggles and take responsibility for their personal and professional growth by using supervision. Our staff must buy into the responsibility they have as mentors and change agents and must work collaboratively and in a person centered, trauma informed manner.
Perhaps one would say that kindness plays the most important role in the healing process. What people often remember most about what helped in their recovery is how they were treated by others. Each day we strive to fulfill our mission in providing high quality comprehensive services to our tenants. This is exhibited through caring, compassion and kindness which starts at the front door. We place our clients first by providing them with a holding environment and we always view our folks through a Trauma Informed lens.
We take pride in creating rich environments that promote diversity and acceptance and where each individual is able to be themselves. Our residences are seen as homes where people can display their authentic selves and where there is a culture of compassion and nurturance. An act of kindness makes one happy, can lift one’s spirit and promote safety and facilitate trust.
Providing excellence in Housing consists of implementing the best care that’s available. It entails investing in the training of your staff in areas that are known to be effective in our field. We are usually referring to evidence-based practice, and models that cater to the individual needs of people in our programs. Of course, as is the case with most effective therapists in clinics and private practice, the art is for our housing staff to incorporate different components from multiple perspectives; to utilize what’s practical and most importantly, what the person receiving services desires.
At ICL, we rely heavily on Person Centered Planning and we practice from a Strengths Based Approach. We partner with people who need a hand creating their road to recovery. We treat the person with utmost respect and steer clear of pathologizing and labeling them. Our interactions and medical documentation begin with the identification of their strengths. If a person desires to become the next U.S. President, we respect their goal and explore the next steps to achieve it.
We also create a blend of Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Harm Reduction, Narrative Therapy and the list goes on. For instance, we may use motivational interviewing to help a person identify a life goal and help create ambivalence about their substance use by showing how their current actions may be delaying their goal attainment. If they agree, we can begin working on reducing harm in realistic ways and come up with action steps they can commit to. When they begin to recognize any progress made, they can begin to create a new narrative, altering their lens for a future that may not have seemed possible before.
Excellence is not just accredited by degrees, licensures, trainings and certifications. Excellence in services must also include lived experiences and finding creative ways to pull that into practice. One of the popular means of achieving this has been through the hiring of peer specialists who often have a direct connection to our line of work. As youth, we’re sometimes taught to forget the trauma or difficult times we’ve conquered once we become adults. However, it’s those experiences that helps us maintain humility and authentically engage with those in need, expediting the beginning stage and helping the person towards their recovery.
At ICL, we commit to excellence in our housing by providing an array of trainings including clinical rounds for staff as well as different events for people in our programs. This includes an annual trip to Albany where, together, we advocate for excellence across the board. Our agency holds different reviews to explore how our care can be further enhanced; committees such as our Internal Review Committee where we review incidents, Sentinel Reviews and Clinical Risk Consultation Team meetings help to accomplish this.
So now the disclaimer, like your Mother’s homemade chicken Soup, Aunt Bertha’s collard greens , or Uncle Joes meatloaf, there are many different wonderful recipes. Likewise, while we sincerely believe in collaboration, accountability kindness and excellence as core ingredients to ICL housing there are indeed other models. Try out what works for you but always be sure to keep your tenants front and center and empower your staff to contribute their own special touch….
Jose Cotto, LMSW, is Vice President, Residential Rehabilitation and Support Services; Camille Davis, LMSW, is Vice President, Residential Rehabilitation and Support Services; David Kamnitzer, LCSW-R, is Senior Vice President, Residential Rehabilitation and Support Services; and Eleanor Lalor, LMSW, Vice President, Residential Rehabilitation and Support Services, at ICL.
If you need more information about ICL Housing contact Sarah Abramson, LMSW, AVP of Central Access at 718-855-4035×16002 or visit our website at www.ICLINC.org.