Matt Urban Center’s Housing First team helps chronically homeless individuals find a safe place to live by working to place them in local scattered site apartments and hooking them up with intensive case management to provide some stability.
With nearly 70 units of housing to fill and many clients to help, that means a lot of moves are happening on a monthly basis for this crew.
“We used to have to pay ABC movers and we were paying anywhere from $300 to $500 to get them to move clients’ belongings,” Lisa said. “Whether it was a new client, an old client moving from one apartment to another, picking up furniture from St. Vincent’s – we had to use them.”
This past summer, the team purchased a box truck and our Housing First Supervisor, Lisa Gentzler, had an idea. Now that we had the means to relocate our client’s belongings to their new apartments, why not turn this into an employment opportunity for them, too?
So Lisa created a moving team for Housing First, by Housing First. “To source the employees, I decided I’m going to use my own clients,” she said. “We’ve been in operation for about a month and a half and I can’t say enough how successful it has been.”
She started out with one client – Rashad – who is currently unemployed and living on social security income due to issues related to his schizophrenia. Lisa was able to get him work moving clients two to three times per week.
“It helps with his boredom,” she said. “He is a former crack addict. After working with him for some time, he got clean and has been for over a year. It’s nice for him to be able to supplement his income. We put him to work as much as possible.”
What came out of a necessity to stop paying exorbitant fees to moving companies created opportunity for our clients and a better process for serving them. With the Housing First team handling its own moves, they’re now able to get a client moved in less than three hours.
Not only does it help the clients who need to be moved, but it also helps Lisa to do her job as their case manager. “This gives me more time to spend with clients and get to know them better. And it gives my case managers more time with their clients, too.”
Knowing how badly many of the apartments needed cleaning in between moves, Lisa added cleaning to the jobs list. Her team is tough, tackling some pretty heaving cleaning jobs and moving heavy furniture, too.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” she said. “Some of these jobs are really hard. You’re talking about moving refrigerators and stoves into 2nd or 3rd floor apartments. People are floored by the fact that they come in and don’t complain – they just get the job done and go home.”
Lisa now has four clients on her team who are earning their own paycheck, and helping the program succeed, too. One client who battles with alcoholism was typically spending his days drinking in the park. Now he has meaningful work that keeps him busy.
“It gives them that feeling that ‘I’m really doing something for myself.’ It keeps them from doing bad things, sure, but it also gives them that freedom that comes with having a job,” Lisa said. “Being able to bring them their checks and see their faces light up is amazing.”