Tuesday, March 17, 2015

And the news about Affordable Housing is...

From the March 2015 Housing Spotlight from the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

•             The number of extremely low income (ELI) renter households rose from 9.6 million in 2009 to 10.3 million in 2013 and they made up 24% of all renter households in 2013.

•             There was a shortage of 7.1 million affordable rental units available to ELI renter households in 2013. Another way to express this gap is that there were just 31 affordable and available units per 100 ELI renter households. The data show no change from the analysis a year ago.

•             For the 4.1 million renter deeply low income (DLI) renter households in 2013, there was a shortage of 3.4 million affordable rental units available to them. There were just 17 affordable and available units per 100 DLI renter households.

•             Seventy-five percent of ELI renter households spent more than half of their income on rent and utilities; 90% of DLI renter households spent more than half of their income for rent and utilities.

•             In every state, at least 60% of ELI renters paid more than half of their income on rent and utilities.

•             No state had more than 56 units of rental housing affordable and available for every 100 ELI households, and no state had more than 37 units of rental housing affordable and available for every 100 DLI households.

•             Among the 50 metropolitan areas with the largest renter household populations, the number of affordable and available rental units for every 100 ELI households ranged from 10 in Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NVto 47 in Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mental Health Matters: Women's Group Matters

By Social Work Intern Dulce Vallejo

Working in the Mental Wellness department, I get to see how much time and effort goes into planning the Women’s Group sessions every week. Seeing the process and development of the group sessions helps me realize how important these sessions are for our female residents.

A large portion of the families we serve find themselves experiencing homelessness because they are challenged with inadequate life skills, social supports, knowledge of resources in their own community, new coping mechanisms, and a sense of community and feeling like they belong.

During my observations in group therapy, I find that it offers an organized and protected space to bond with other women in such an authentic and comfortable way. It is a place for women to feel comfortable revealing parts of themselves; the fair, the immoral and the unpleasant. In such an environment it is easy to discovery the many ways in which they are alike.

The group’s purpose serves as a “mutual-aid system” where individuals learn and support each other while building helping relationships. Not only do they build them with each other, but also with the group leaders. Having common problems helps facilitate the development of the relationship. 

Sometimes residents just need to realize that they are not the only one going through this hardship and that there are others who feel the same. The group utilizes strengths such as independence, coping skills, empathy, relational abilities, self-reflection and recognizing their own strengths, among others.

According to an article I read about women’s group therapy by Joan Berzoff’s, she mentions that being comfortable enough to disclose similar traumatic events within a group increases a sense of belonging but it cannot just be the groups responsibility, the group leader must work at creating a safe environment as well as model positive behavior and that is exactly what I have seen the group leaders at Community LINC do (Berzoff, 2013). Berzoff, also believes psycho-education and advocacy can help empower women experiencing homelessness in group therapy, and that learning about other women’s stories can increase self-cohesion and esteem (Berzoff, 2013).

Not too long ago I met Rachel a resident who said to me “I don’t like counseling or therapy but I do like doing group stuff because it lets me know that I am not alone. It’s not that I am glad that they are going through hard times too, but just the sense that I am not alone in this is good for me.”

Go to our Face Book page and you will see pictures of some of the expressive therapy (art) items that the residents in the Women’s Group have made and are very proud of. The most recent pictures are from a group activity when the women were given art supplies and a small canvass and invited to make a collage depicting the ways “I Have the Power and Control” in making my life better. Several women who participated in the group process shared ways the activity helped them to focus on their strengths and remain hopeful that they will be able to move from homeless to hopeful.

Works Cited
Berzoff, J. (2013). Group Therapy With Homeless Women . Smith College Studies in Social Work , 83 (2-3).

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mental Wellness Matters: Readiness for Change Matters

By Director of Mental Health Services Griselda Williams

As a mental health provider I am trained to remain aware of those we are trying to help and their readiness for change. A professor of psychology named James O. Prochaska, in the 70’s, developed the “Stages of Change Model” to identify the process that humans go through when making changes in their lives. Since the 70’s, the model has been used in counseling, health care, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence intervention and many other settings because it is backed by research, but also it has credibility due to its effectiveness in gauging readiness for change. How many times have we in our personal lives said that we were going to start an exercise program, end an unhealthy relationship, take a class, change careers or maybe even just eat healthier, but it takes some time for us to put into motion the goals we discuss.

The stages that Prochaska identified were:

                      Pre-contemplation---not currently considering change or aware that change would be helpful
                      Contemplation—not considering change within the next month, ambivalent about change
                      Preparation—some experience with change and testing making some change, plans to act within 1 month
                      Action—practicing new behaviors and new thinking, putting plans into action
                      Maintenance—continuing commitment to sustaining new behavior, new change
                      Relapse—resumption of old behaviors

Prochaska states that humans may not pass through each stage easily and may move backward and forward and even relapse as that too is part of the human reaction to the process of change. I think it is interesting that the stage that involves putting change into action is 4th; indicative sometimes just how long it takes us as humans to put new behaviors into motion. John Fisher developed “The Process of Transition” in the 90’s but revised his theory in 2012. He identified that the reason humans have difficulty with change is due to feelings like anxiety, anger, fear, denial, guilt, depression and others.

At Community LINC, we help our program participants work through the challenges associated with change and transition.  Through counseling and coaching meetings, most program participants attribute their greatest barriers to change as fear of the unknown, not knowing what to expect or not knowing what will happen if change is made. Recently, I met with one of our program participants, Ms. Gretta who appeared to be at the stage of relapse.  During her weekly counseling meeting focusing on employment, I learned she was no longer actively seeking employment.  She shared frustrations of securing the interview with employers selecting other candidates over her.    We were able to see that our perception of the situation was having an impact on her sense of self (anxiety and fear).  This small impact had rapidly dropped her self-confidence and negative self-image leaving her not knowing which way to turn – Who am I?  In any behavior change, relapses are common occurrences.  A person’s stage of change is used to decide which strategies are most appropriate to promote or maintain change.  We took the opportunity to reassess a new plan of action and resources to set realistic goals that would match her interest and skills.   This allowed us to go a step further to ensure sustainable success by making contingency plans to cope with difficult situation. 

Applying Prochaska’s stages of change model combined with Fishers process of transition to our residents at Community LINC is vital to understanding their readiness to make change, appreciating barriers to change, and helping them anticipate relapse.  At Community LINC, our programs focus on making sure that each program participant learns valuable skills by working through challenges, celebrating successes, and to gain invaluable skills necessary for maintaining self-sufficiency.  

We hope that when each program participant leaves the program they can each leave by saying, “I still have a long way to go but I’m already so far from where I used to be and proud of the change.”