After six years of connecting with our neighbors experiencing homelessness and serving approximately 462 individuals, Family Services will wrap up our street outreach efforts.
Family Services’ supportive housing program provides resources that promote safety and housing stability for individuals and families experiencing chronic homelessness, domestic violence, and those living with HIV/AIDS. This team has also facilitated a homeless outreach project for the past year through a partnership with the Kings/Tulare Continuum of Care on Homelessness (CoC) program and previously for five years with the support of the City of Visalia. After six years, this program concluded on June 30, 2022.
Through this project, Family Services provided case management services and assistance to unsheltered individuals and families who critically needed support. This street outreach focused on individuals who demonstrated significant barriers to entering housing. These barriers included: untreated serious mental illness, chronic substance abuse, victimization such as domestic violence or sexual assault, physical, mental, and developmental disabilities, or criminal justice histories that discourage their efforts to transition out of homelessness.
For the last four years, Karen Cosio has served as the Case Manager for Family Services’ Homeless Outreach Program. One of Karen’s biggest takeaways from her experiences working with clients is that everyone is unique. Karen explains, “although the program has a process for all individuals to follow, timelines can vary for each client. This can be due to lacking proper documents or other barriers in the client’s life. Each person has a different set of issues and has their own time frame for becoming self-sufficient. It may take one client three years to get “document-ready” and another client three weeks depending upon the barriers in their lives.”
Reflecting on her experience, Karen shared that no two stories are the same. One thing that sets Karen and our agency apart is the deep desire to meet clients where they are with the resources we can provide. Family Service’s ability to support these low-and moderate-income individuals with this program included: case management, crisis counseling, emergency assistance (i.e., food, clothing, furniture, hygiene products, etc.), transportation assistance, and information and referral to participants.
On behalf of Family Services and our community, Karen took the time to speak with, get to know, and try to understand how to best help our clients as individuals. Karen explained that she has gained a deeper understanding of herself and her clients.
“Each person is valuable and has gold inside them if the time is taken to ‘dig deep' and be there for them. It does not matter what they look like on the outside or how long it takes for them to finally concentrate on housing. Homeless individuals are just like you and me with a different set of life circumstances.”
Karen’s outlook reflects the services and care that Family Services Supportive Housing Program demonstrates. They know that sometimes all it takes is being there for someone. Regardless of what a client may look like on the outside or how long it takes, our care and efforts remain the same.
Many success stories showcase Karen and her teammate's hard work for their clients.
Here are a few of those stories:
Success story 1:
V and J had been homeless for two years. V experienced severe depression, and J has medical and mental health issues. Both were struggling with addiction issues. Karen first contacted them during street outreach in December of 2018 at the Visalia Transit Center. At first, V and J did not want any contact with Karen due to their previous experiences with agencies. However, after repeated efforts, a relationship of trust was built between the clients and the case manager. Karen provided ongoing service linkage to food, clothing, and emotional support. V and J began to work with Karen on getting on the housing waitlist by obtaining the needed documents, which they completed at the end of March. On March 29th, the client was contacted for housing, and by April 26th, they had moved into their new apartment. When V and J were first housed, they had their ups and downs. Still, with support from Karen, their housing case manager, and local support agencies, they made it through their first year and continued to do well. Even after being housed, V often contacted Karen for resources, emotional support, and referrals. V was reunited with her children and now has visitation rights. As of this date, V and J have been housed for over two years. V has stated, "I am so happy. I was so tired of the streets. I couldn't do it anymore. Thank you for helping us." V occasionally contacts Karen when she needs assistance and often refers other homeless individuals to Karen for help.
Success story 2:
A and R first met Karen during street outreach in 2019. They had been on the streets for several years. Karen would lose track of them for about six months then they would re-appear. They always called if they needed something. Finally, they were housed at Eden House after much encouragement and advocacy efforts. They continued working on their mental health and parenting classes. They moved into their new apartment in May of 2022. Karen received the following text with a picture of their new home. "Thank you! We wouldn't be here if it weren't for you sticking with us and sometimes even pushing us. We owe this to you!"
After reviewing these stories, Karen shared, "I can honestly say I feel like a like a "proud Mama" who has helped her children achieve their goals. I work with some amazing individuals."
Thanks to the Kings-Tulare Homeless Alliance and the City of Visalia for the opportunity to engage in working with our community in this way. In total, this partnership served approximately 462 individuals with housing referral and documentation support services.