Former Case Worker Sees Homeless Services Fractured

South San Francisco, CA    July 25, 2016    by a Concerned Former Case Worker 

The words that came from the caseworkers are unbelievable to me. “I’m sorry we have no record of your file. Oh I’m sorry your case worker no longer works here and we cannot locate your information or referral.” (Okay, well I’m sure there must be some type of case note or record of the shelter referral. )

 

As a former caseworker we held weekly meetings to discuss any pending shelter referrals, move on costs, delinquent rent, utilities etc. To ensure that each of our caseworkers were accountable for their work. Immediately after taking a shelter referral from a client. We immediately faxed the referral over to the shelter and took a moment of our time to call our contacts at the shelter to ensure all pages were received on the other end. Then we would write a detailed case note. So anyone picking up the file could review where each client was.

 

A director ( new or old) should always have the answer ( not guess). He told the client I believe that your on the wait list for shelter. Why not simply pick up the phone and verify it. Don’t assume your caseworker did his job. Put your clients mind at ease and verbally verify that she is actually on the wait list. A director needs to be equipped to do some damage control. The lives of homeless families are in your hands. They are already in a vulnerable situation. Everytime they have to go to go back and forth for something that could have been avoided is stressful.

 

Let me see the first time the client reached out to me on social media I (even though retired) had her placed on the Motel Voucher Program and into the shelter that the YMCA told her there was no space and she should check back with them in August.
This clients was clearly eligible for the Motel Voucher Program with two minor children under age 5 at the time. But yet because of lack of experience or program knowledge she was told to come back several months later. If this omen had not reached out though social media how long would she have waited. These clients put their trust in their caseworker to guide them. I know we were constantly training and maintaining our resources to cover our clients with up to date services and wrap around services.

 

People are relying on your knowledge and expecting you to be well trained to help them during a very stressful situation. A lot of case management is common sense not requiring a degree. Simple common sense . Put yourself in the clients shoes for a minute. You have to genuinely care and put your best effort into your work. At the no of the day it feels good that you made a huge difference in someone’s life.

 

It saddens me to see the quality of services that these clients are receiving is far below what they should expect. Trust me when I tell you many of my prior clients reach out directly and I offer my assistance freely whenever possible. It is ridiculous that the funders should be looking very closely at the quality of services they are receiving fir their money these days.

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Please see our most recent post about Homeless in South City sleeping on our local streets  CLICK HERE 

 

7 comments for “Former Case Worker Sees Homeless Services Fractured

  1. renee cortez
    July 25, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    I would like to respond to this article and I want to thank ( Everything South City) for taking the time to accept its submission. My name is : Renee Cortez and I am the client in this story. I want to freely tell you that I have been chronically homeless in San Mateo County ( So. San Francisco area) since 2010 after being displaced from our families home. I couldn’t begin to tell you in one page everything my family and I have endured throughout this whole experience.

    Homelessness was not a choice for us. We are two adults ( both currently struggling nightly) to pay for a motel room for our family. Two of my older daughters reside with a family member because of motel occupancy limits. We have spent over $40,000 in motel costs. I want you to get a clear picture of this cycle of homelessness.

    In 2010 we were displaced and stayed in motel after motel. We finally found a family members home where we stayed from 2011-2012 until they lost the home to foreclosure. Unfortunately, we found ourselves again homeless with our young children. We struggled and managed to stay afloat. A caseworker finally convinced me to try the shelter. I went to my local CORE and the caseworker told me to come back sometime in August because the shelter was full. The familiar agency I had worked with was replaced by this new agency. All the familiar faces and knowledgable persons I relied on for years were gone. I thought things were hopeless how could I wait out from April to August without a place for my family. I decided to try and reach out to a caseworker that I worked with before. I located her on social media. Yes, of all places Facebook. She didn’t have to respond, but I thank GOD she did. By that afternoon my family was placed on the Motel Voucher Program though the Shelter. I promised to go back to the YMCA for my shelter referral to be completed. I was thankful that someone really cared enough to call on my families behalf and make sure I wasn’t left out in the cold with my children.

    For four months we were secure and all it took was one phone call and some advocacy on our behalf. Had I listened to the other caseworker I never would have gotten my family into such a wonderful place. While we were their four months we managed to save over $2,600.

    Which may seem like a lot of money, but it really isn’t once your released from shelter. In my case it was used to pay for once again motel stays. Once again we were at square one starting over. I couldn’t go back to the comforts of the shelter my time had been exhausted. I still couldn’t afford the high prices of rent (2015)

    We struggled to pay our motel stay nightly. Do you know how it rips the heart of a mother to know you can’t comfort your child’s fears? How do you explain to your child they don’t have a stable lace to lie their heads. Or how do you feel when a motel owner threatens to call the police because you can’t come up with the money for one more night.

    I couldn’t tell you how many times I asked for help with a program called ” Moving to Work”, seeing others shorter time in the shelter being given even if temporary a Section 8 voucher to help stabilize their situation. I asked myself several times how do families get selected, who is the caseworker I need to help us? Are we not worthy of the assistance? Why am I not being offered the opportunities so many others are receiving.

    Well, then about a month ago I decided struggling over a year I should reach out for help one more time. Hoping that maybe this time someone would offer me a chance to change my life. Instead, I ended up frustrated and once again list and disappointed. Why? I went to my local CORE again. It took 30-40 minutes to fill out a new shelter referral and I thought I was secure and placed on the wait list.

    As you read in the initial story by the caseworker I once again reached out too before. She asked me when I was placed on the list. I advised her over a month ago. She stated have they called you back. I told her no. She prompted me to follow up and to my surprise I was advised several things.

    1) The caseworker that took my referral no longer worked there!
    2) There was no record of my file!
    3) A new director has been hired and he would call me back once they located my information.

    Here we are a week later and no return call. Should I be surprised? I barely revived a call from the new director informing me ” that he believes that my referral was sent to the shelter. Not once could he reassure me 100% it was there.

    In the meantime my old ( retired caseworker) wrote a story to KPIX news, Everything South City, called Jackie Speiers Office and called a women from the City of South San Francisco.

    I believe that I am not the only client that is falling through the cracks. We are had working individuals and our children depend on their parents to protect them. How can we continue to suffer more and more injustices and the County and Cities that fund these agencies really don’t care.

    I am imploring for someone from the County or City to step in and correct these wrongs. We vote you into office and rely on your choices. We cannot become self sufficient and end homelessness if the caseworkers don’t provide accurate and complete services equally to everyone.

    I really would appreciate someone taking the time to contact me directly. I would hope this would open your eyes to the need for fully trained experienced case managers. People who aren’t just there for a paycheck; but to truly care about the individuals or families that sit across from them at their desks.

    Respectfully,

    Renee Cortez

  2. Renee cortez
    July 26, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Thank you to Marlin at Salvation Army for offering my children Back to School Services for my children. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or who I could turn to for help.

    Another Angel has been sent my way after my story was published in Everything South City. I am deeply appreciative.

    • Editor
      August 1, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      Hi Renee,
      We are glad to hear you are receiving necessary services and we wish you continued success. Best to you and your family.
      -ED

  3. Renee cortez
    July 26, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    I wanted to follow up with hopefully a final comment on my current homeless situation. I walked into the YMCA and met with the Director Kevin. I requested for him to please put my mind at ease and please verify that my shelter referral had been submitted to the shelter. He returned from another room with what looked like a file folder and he opened it. In the folder he said ” I’m sure your referral was sent. He quickly noticed that the only referral in the file was the original referral from 2015. Seriously, he couldn’t dispute or respond to my concern. He tried three times to call Patty at the shelter, but didn’t get an answer.

    Then I asked for food for my family from the food pantry. His answer was I have snacks I can give you. Unfortunately, the volunteers haven’t been in and we won’t have any food available until Thursday. I clarified so you have food available, but you can’t distribute it because your volunteers haven’t sorted it. So, if a family has a food emergency as a director or staff member you cannot gather together an emergency food bag.

    So, I none must feed my children snacks because he couldn’t take a moment to pack food fir my family. Wow! What a huge difference in services received from prior agencies. How many other homeless or vulnerable people are being denied food because their is no one to pack it. I think others affected by this should come forward.

    The only way things can change is if you voice your concerns. I think it is appalling to leave someone hungry and without because you claim your volunteer hasn’t sorted your delivery. You prefer to let your client go away and wait a few days. This says so much about the quality of services people are receiving.

    It seems pretty inhumane to me. Not because I’ve experienced it, but how many others are being turned away. I’m sure the Second Harvest Food Bank would be deeply disappointed because they provide these pantries to help the community.

    Shame! Shame!

  4. Gisela Jimenez
    August 4, 2016 at 10:32 am

    After reading the article about the Homeless family. I have to say that this agency really isn’t serving the needs of the residents of South San Francisco. I think people are afraid to come forward or embarrassed to say they are clients of agency including the YMCA. They may not want friends and neighbors to know because they feel bad having to seek help.

    But the fact of the matter is that everyone needs a little help sometime. It’s sad when the agency you are forced to rely on doesn’t answer the phone, or the voicemails and full and no one ever returns your phone call back.

    I couldn’t tell you how many times that has happened to me. I have even gone down to those offices during business hours posted only to find the office closed. If you do find someone you frequently can’t find the services you went there to receive ( An example: Help with a 15 day or 48 hour PG&E Bill, Back packs or clothing for our children). I noticed that they don’t even know where to refer you too for help. They don’t even have the counties ” Free Community Resources Guide” available to make sure you are being referred to other agencies.

    You wouldn’t want to go into an agency that doesn’t know how to handle your needs. There solution is to offer you a bag of food. Well, if I were there for food then I could appreciate it. But I want to be directed to the correct agency for services not just getting the run around.

    These agencies are funded to make sure clients like me get the ” Safety Net Services” to survive in an expensive County. Why are the County and City funding an agency that doesn’t do anything positive for there community.

    I am asking the residents of our city if you have had bad experiences make a comment here. No one can change anything by staying silent. I am sorry but I was used to great quality services in an agency that allowed me to volunteer and learn skills that helped me help others in my community. It was an opportunity to learn and gain skills that could make a difference in the community.

    We deserve better services and nothing can change if you don’t let the funders know where the services are lacking.

    -Gisela Jimenez

  5. Concerned Citizen
    August 4, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    In response to “Homeless In So. City Sleeping on our streets. Sorry I couldn’t find link to leave a comment there. But I wanted to provide a comment in response.

    . I observed and watched numerous attempts by the County and the City spending endless resources on trying to solve the homeless dilemma. ( Every City across the US has a problem with homelessness). It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The fact of the matter is if you take apart the encampments and scattered the people then you can pretend you don’t have a problem.

    I always found it interesting to see how many survey’s were taken regarding homelessness, how many meetings, homeless counts once a year. How many hours do you really need to determine you have a problem and the types of problems your dealing with. Some clients have mental health issues making it more difficult to place them, some are paroles that cannot be housed in the shelter. So, they fall between the cracks. You have some with substance or alcohol problems. Then you have individuals who don’t earn enough to pay the ridiculous prices of today’s astronomical rents today. Are they getting better ? NO.

    The fact of the matter is it’s easier to try to rid or scatter the homeless to other cities.

    In fact, greedy property management companies are coming in and building huge apartment building with retail stores below them. With the promise of renting a very small percentage of these units to low to moderate income families. Why? Because they get HUD loans to fund them based on a contract of renting some of these units below market for a limited term.

    I want you to ask yourself who gains from this? Let me see Revenue goes to the City, the County for Property taxes and of course the property management company just got millions of dollars in government loans to let you the residents think your getting something in return.

    In the meantime your losing your community . Those mom and pop stores you grew up with are being slowly wiped away in the name of growth ( strategic planning) LOL. Little by little pushing out those that cannot afford the high cost of living. In the meantime your so called local government is wining and dining your local pharmaceuticals and Silicon Valley residents to consider moving into a less populated area with the promise of a quickly growing community with lots of opportunities. ( Look at he big picture. These people can bring growth and make the city and county even more richer.)

    The fact is that having the homeless downtown SSF or even dining at St. Vincent de Paul Cafe has been a huge thorn in the side of the City. How many times did they try to find a new location for the Cafe? Long time residents are slowly moving and the once affordable Old Town has been courting a new group of potential residents. Wake up people this is happening right under your noses. Trying to revamp and invest money in modernization means bringing more revenue to the city and county and slowly getting rid of what they feel plagues the City. The working poor, the homeless.

    What does the City call proactive? What can they claim as a positive move solving the homeless problem. ( Surveys, homeless committees, disbursing homeless encampments, trying hard to move their food resource from downtown to prevent disturbing the local businesses to discourage pan handling).

    What positive programs have you successfully established to house, train, provide jobs, provide mental health care, how many homeless individuals can you claim to have housed or are a success story in your eyes. ( ( Did I hear you respond zero.)) Because it’s nice to talk the talk, but until you can show successes than your throwing precious resources ( monies away). Money that can help build a (One Stop Resource Center) that can cover multiple services under one roof . A section to deal with homelessness ( mental health resource workers, drug/alcohol, parole advocates) —A housing specialist for Veterans, seniors , disabled, families.—A (SRO) for single females / an SRO for single males. Job trainers, job advocates for skilled workers.
    An SRO or mental health shelter where those who cannot function in normal society.

    Take a huge piece of property like the old Levitz and house the services on site. I could imagine 100-150 Tiny Homes with a public bathroom and showers for the residents. Providing them with a time limit to get stable employment or a job training to become self sufficient .

    Train some of the clients to participate with an in house food pantry, produce mobile. You can never know if it will work if you don’t even try. You can continue to chase your tail counting and counting the homeless year after year. You can continue to have luxury meetings and lunches to collaborate services etc. But your not looking good to anyone, but your own peers. You should thank GOD you go home to nice cozy homes every night. That you are fortunate to have a great city or county paid job. But in the end you better realize that life can change in a heartbeat and you too can be that shadow in a dark corner someday. When you were once a somebody you too will become someone no longer recognizes and your dignity and respect can be lost just as quickly. You should really put yourselves in their shoes for one day. I’m sure it’s harder than any job just trying to get your next meal, or ask for services when your agency is clear across town ( not within walking distance). Just getting from Safe Harbor to get a simple meal for the day. Trying to get a bed at the shelter itself. You have to carry your worldly possessions everywhere or take a chance of losing them. Really Mr. Futrell you need to have better answers or comments than you do right now.

    ?

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