Amber Gale joined the Interfaith Action staff last November as the organization’s first rapid exit caseworker, a role created to help families staying in Project Home shelters find permanent, stable housing.
“Our goal is rapid stabilization,” says Sara Liegl, Project Home director. “We want to shorten the length of stay for the families in our emergency shelters by helping them address the barriers to more stable housing. We want Project Home to be their last steppingstone before they find safe, affordable housing.” She also notes that helping families move more quickly to permanent housing opens up space for others in need of emergency shelter, allowing Interfaith Action to serve more people in our community.
In just eight short months, this position has had a major impact. Gale has already helped 15 families find homes through supportive housing programs and five families move into market-rate housing.
Empowering the families is at the root of this success, says Gale. “I provide resources and walk alongside families. It’s a hard job finding housing, and to ask that of families that are under a mountain of stress is really asking too much. It’s so important to help them build confidence and skills. The absolute best feeling in the world is when a family gets into a home of their own.”
Liegl says that families’ economic mobility hinges on three main things: increasing their income through employment opportunities and public benefits; leveraging community resources to decrease debt and improve their overall background; and connecting families with stable, safe and affordable housing opportunities.
The highly personalized housing-focused case management services that Gale provides also includes referrals to Interfaith Action’s Power-Up Legal Clinic and Community Power-Up educational sessions, as well as connections to key partners such as Daily Work and Goodwill Easter Seals. “Some families need legal help. Some need a knowledgeable partner to go with them to Social Security, to mediate with a landlord or to look at rental properties. I try to meet them where they’re at and give them the support they need,” Gale says.
When families move into permanent housing, Interfaith Action provides quality air mattresses, blankets, pillows, dishes, utensils and toiletries. Gale also makes sure they have access to food shelves and free clothing, and she stays in touch with the family for up to six months, tapering her support as they become more stable and independent.
The success of the new rapid exit caseworker position has encouraged Interfaith Action to expand its team. This fall, two students earning their master of social work degree from University of Saint Thomas and Saint Catherine’s University will work with Gale to increase case management capacity. “Homelessness is a traumatic experience,” says Liegl. “No matter how comfortable and safe we strive to make our family shelters – they are still not home. The sooner we can help families move into stable housing, the better their long-term outcomes will be.”
The rapid exit caseworker position is funded by Mardag Foundation, Otto Bremer Trust, the Paul and Sheila Steiner Charitable Lead Trust, and the Minnesota Department of Human Services Office of Economic Opportunity – Emergency Services Program.
Interesting in helping us make a difference?
The families transitioning from our shelters to permanent housing could use your support. Most needed: donations of Cub gift cards, twin size air mattresses, blankets, towels, toilet paper, diapers, and basic supplies for a new home.