The following is an excerpt from the January 2020 PPTFH Newsletter. To read the Newsletter in full, please click here.
Pictured: Scott Davis - a client of the PPTFH shares his story with the audience
From Street to Home: A Success Story
Scott arrived on his bicycle 25 minutes early for the community meeting. He greeted me with a warm smile saying “Hi, I’m Scott Davis, I didn’t want to be late.” (Scott is a client who had agreed to share his success story at the November 18, 2019 PPTFH community meeting.) His handshake felt strong and friendly. He asked how he could help with the room setup and later waited patiently for the program to start.
The meeting featured a panel presentation by the outreach team from The People Concern – Alex Gittinger, Glanda Sherman, Jessie Cortez, Jennifer Deleon-Dukes, Jamie Gallardo (a housing navigator) and Marc Panetta (a housing owner and operator). Each panelist described their specialty role. By the end of the presentation it was evident how well they operate as a highly skilled, flexible, compassionate and intertwined team. The presentation detailed their client “Trauma-Informed Care” approach (which requires hundreds of individualized steps to help a person move from the street to a home) and ended with Scott Davis sharing his story.
Scott started out in Minnesota, served in the military and then moved to Texas where he ended up camping on the beach because “after Hurricane Harvey they bulldozed my housing”. He helped the hurricane victims but could not find housing for himself. He decided to go to Coronado, San Diego in search of an old landlord friend but could not find him. He continued to move north, eventually winding up in Pacific Palisades where “Sharon [Kilbride, a PPTFH member] found and connected me to the outreach team.” “I refused their help at first because so many other people had said they would help…and then didn’t.”
Scott traveled to Malibu “where he’d heard there are lots of services” but did not find the help he needed. He was violently attacked by other homeless people and “went back to Sharon and Glanda …whom he decided to trust.” He came to them “bloody, battered and bruised.” As he graphically described the attack he had survived his eyes and voice told the deeper, disturbing story.
Fast forward to the meeting (after taking many steps with the outreach team), Scott announced that he is moving into his new apartment on December 1, 2019. He expressed his great joy and gratitude for the care and support that he is receiving from PPTFH and his hope for the future. Many in the audience wept quiet tears of joyful gratitude with Scott and tears of hope for him.
(from left) Glanda Sherman, Alex Gittinger, Jessie Cortez, Jennifer Deleon-Dukes, Jamie Gallardo, Marc Panetta
Questions & Answers
Q: What is trauma?
A: A person’s psychological, emotional response to an event or experience that is deeply disturbing to them. The person has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and some impairments in their abilities to function or emotional and behavioral problems as a result of the trauma events.
There are three main types of trauma: acute, chronic and complex.
Acute trauma results from a single incident.
Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged such as domestic violence or abuse.
Complex trauma is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature.
Q: What is Trauma-Informed Care?
A: Care provided by a trained social worker that treats the whole person, taking into account past trauma and the client’s resulting coping mechanisms. Care that starts where the client is by asking “How can I help you?” Care that is slow, gentle, trust-building and, most important, consistent. Ensuring that the physical and emotional safety of an individual is addressed is the first essential step in providing Trauma-Informed Care. Outreach team members Glanda, Jessie and Jennifer took these steps with Scott Davis.
Q: Do all homeless people need Trauma-Informed Care?
A: Yes. For most people, to experience homelessness is a trauma in itself. The events leading up to homelessness are traumatic, and living on the street becomes an ongoing or chronic trauma. Scott Davis’ story exemplifies such trauma.
Q: Why don’t people want to move off of the street?
A: There are many reasons but most of them relate to past trauma and how the individual copes with the trauma. Many fear leaving what they know on the street for something unknown. Some have never experienced a happy home so moving to a home does not necessarily mean a better situation than their current one. Others fear isolation, loneliness, and loss of an identity they have formed on the street. Still others fear the stress associated with the responsibilities that come with being housed or fear the possible failure, and resulting trauma, of falling back into homelessness.
Q: What is a housing navigator?
A: A member of the outreach team who prepares individuals to successfully enter housing, and searches for housing and a landlord who is willing to accept housing vouchers. The navigator prepares the client for their interview with a potential landlord, conducts training classes for clients who have the documents necessary to engage in lease agreements, and guides each client through the entire leasing process. Jamie Gallardo guided Scott through his leasing process.
Q: Do housing placements work out?
A: Often it depends upon the landlord’s relationship with the outreach team and housing navigator. For landlord Marc Panetta “9 out of 10 cases work out.” “LAHSA pays the rent every month directly into the account so I don’t have rent collection problems.” Marc “screens his tenants carefully.” He likes working with the outreach team because they “help me achieve what I want…a tranquil environment” and the team “will relocate a client if necessary.” Marc noted that he “has a heart for veterans,” certainly for vets like Scott Davis.