My first two weeks at Heading Home as their new Volunteer Coordinator are done. I have my own cubicle, keys, work email, phone, and job responsibilities. The main part of my job as the Volunteer Coordinator is finding, training, and placing new volunteers somewhere within one of the many programs and spaces run by Heading Home. There is also an end of the year event that I am helping coordinate and finding volunteers for. I have jumped right in to a very hands on experience which is something I am happy and enthusiastic about.
Since I am new to the organization I have spent a considerable amount of time during the past two weeks getting to know new people and programs. There are three total spaces and programs I was most intrigued by. The first is a newer program called ABQ Street Connect that focuses people experiencing homelessness with the highest utilization records for emergency response and care. The aim is to establish relationships with these individuals and get them connected to appropriate hosing and support services as quickly as possible Last year, the effort operated as a pilot program with limited funding from the City and saw some amazing successes, including: the top-ranked five targets were all successfully housed within nine months and there was a 57% reduction in emergency service usage.
The second is Albuquerque Heading Home which helps house the most medically vulnerable clients and individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. Albuquerque Heading Home operates under the Housing First Model which means that the program meets the immediate need for housing and doesn’t have social service use as a prerequisite. It allows people experiencing homelessness to find a home and get them off the street no matter their possible drug addictions, serious medical issues, mental health conditions because once the fundamental need for housing is met then the other issues can be addressed. Since 2011, Albuquerque Heading Home has 812 individuals and family members that have been placed in permeant supportive housing.
The third is a space run by Heading Home called the Albuquerque Opportunity Center (AOC). At the AOC there are three different programs being run: Men’s Overnight Emergency Shelter, Respite Care Program and Veteran’s Transitional Housing. The Men’s Overnight Emergency Shelter has 71 beds and provides a safe space fore sleeping and storing items for 30 days. The shelter runs on a first come first serve basis and daily bed availability but once a bed is reserved than it remains reserved for 30 days. The Respite Care Program has 30 beds and provides 24 hour care to men who were recently released from the hospital and are experiencing homelessness. The Veteran’s Transitional Housing program has 15 beds and provides veterans with a connection to VA benefits while helping them to speed up needed services and treatment. The programs main focus is on assisting veterans with exiting homelessness and getting into permanent supportive housing.
This past week I spent my Friday (9/21) afternoon out of the office moving three clients into their new homes. Heading Home has a warehouse that has furniture that has been donated and that then gets sorted and delivered to recently housed clients. I got to help move in a client who I had met at the AOC a few weeks back. His smile and happiness about his new home and furniture is something I will hold onto this year as a reminder that all of the hard work my teammates and I will be putting in during this next year will be worth it because of the many hopeful moments like this one and helpful services the organization provides to people experiencing homelessness in Albuquerque.
I have only been a part of the organization for two weeks but it is clear that Heading Home is truly committed to making homelessness rare, short-lived, and non-recurring and so far my opinions and ideas have been valued and utilized. During my first week, I was asked to go to a Heading Home awareness dinner put on by one of the board members and I got more of a glimpse into how passionate Dennis Plummer the CEO and my direct supervisor Charles LaFond are about ending homelessness. I am looking forward to learning as much as I possibly can during this year because I have access to such a zealous group of powerhouse people that are willing to sit down, get to know me and discuss different aspects of working at a not for profit including Dennis who is a great CEO and awesome ABQ YAV board member. I am so joyful to have this opportunity to be a part of the Heading Home team for the year.