Different Ways to Make a Difference

I have been wondering what the difference is between the terms resident and participant? ... shelter program and short-term, interim housing program? ... relief program and developmental program?

Although all of these terms are relevant to the services we provide - what are the differences between these important approaches to the services we provide that are suggested by the questions above?

The differences reflected through these questions are not just about semantics. The distinctions are critical in defining the role of TLC and the Veterans’ Victory House. The differences also highlight some of the reasons why the work being done at TLC complements the important work being done throughout our community to address the wide range and diversity of needs of those who are experiencing homelessness in Lancaster County.

The word resident refers to a person who occupies an area. You can be a resident of a place for a short or an extended period of time. Achieving a goal of some kind may or may not be desirable, but it is not necessary to set goals to be a resident. For those living at TLC however, participation in the development of their individualized housing plan and its goals is critical to obtaining permanent housing and self-sufficiency. That is why those who are at TLC are called participants to emphasize their engagement in their work to obtain housing.

Shelters also offer relief, which is critical and in many cases may be all that is needed for a time by a person or household to get them back into housing. A shelter is a place that a person can go to come in from the cold, to rest and to take care of some basic, but important needs. Shelter programs play a vital role in providing care and meeting the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness.

TLC addresses many of these same basic needs.

In considering the different approaches, the judgment that every case manager and social worker at TLC has to make daily is what is the right amount and kind of help to provide? Our participants are homeless when they begin and we all want them to move into permanent, sustainable housing as soon as possible. It is also important that not only are their housing goals achieved, but that they are sustainable. Working with - rather than doing for - becomes the focus of the guidance and support provided by TLC case managers to participants. By engaging in and learning from the steps needed to move forward, there is a higher likelihood that goals achieved will be sustained. The learning they engage in - budgeting, personal, professional and creative development at TLC - helps them to build on their success long after they move into housing.

Reflective piece by John, former VISTA volunteer at Tabor and served as TLC's Veterans Support Coordinator who helped expand outreach to veterans' services for the Veterans' Victory House in 2011.

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