Why and how United Way is filling the training gap for professionals helping the homeless and near homeless
If you’ve ever gone to a conference or workshop where you meet and network with peers in your profession, you know how rejuvenating it can be -- not to mention a boost to your productivity and effectiveness. But when the recession hit, many nonprofits were forced to cut such opportunities from their budgets.
For case managers who work with Central Indiana’s homeless and near homeless neighbors, eliminating their professional development is not just demoralizing. United Way of Central Indiana thinks it may even be a road block to helping people who’ve hit rock bottom become productive citizens and get housed again.
That is the thinking behind an innovative new institute that United Way has created for case managers who are on the front lines helping people literally turn their lives around, according to Christie Gillespie, director of agency services. "Case managers must have the best possible knowledge, practices and resources at their disposal to succeed at such a complex and stressful job," she explained.
The institute offers training one or two times a month from January through June. The classes will: better prepare case managers to work with diverse populations; prevent burnout; and offer more techniques to help people "reconnect with work, community and relationships so they can become productive and housed again," Gillespie said.
The backgrounds, experience and education of case managers varies widely, said Gillespie, so participants themselves are an enormous resource about effective ways of overcoming homelessness." But it turns out that case manager are somewhat isolated, and the exchange of expertise was not happening, she added. "We believe they can benefit from training much like what we provide to community leaders so they'll better connect with others and avoid burnout"
The emphasis on case management will also help better position our city to compete for federal funding as well as complement the local Blueprint to End Homelessness plan.
The 16 case managers receiving six-month intense training through United Way of Central Indiana to help people who are either homeless or nearly homeless include: (front, left to right) Linda Kassis, Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center; Joanna Sutherland, Outreach Inc.; Shawnna Rice, Wheeler Mission Ministries Center; Mechelle Burnett, The Bethlehem House; and Nicole DeYoung. And in the back row from left are: Sheryl Twitty, Community Alliance of the Far Eastside (CAFÉ); James Logan, Homeless Initiative Program; Nicole Tobin, Horizon House; Amber Berry, Homeless Initiative Program; Jarred Nelson, Wheeler Mission Ministries; Al Teaters, Outreach Inc.; Nicholas Calvert, Forest Manor Multi-Service Center; Brian Andree, HVAF of Indiana Inc.; Jessica Tomlinson, Holy Family Services of Catholic Charities Indianapolis; Michael Johnson, PACE Inc, (Public Advocates in Community Re-Entry); and, Arnetta Scruggs, Stopover. Inc.
--Mary L. Kinney, Public/media relations director