I began working in supportive housing with the Washtenaw FUSE program in April of 2013 after spending four years working in a detox facility doing counseling. I’ve worked in a variety of non-profit settings for the past 15 years. During my tenure, I’ve gained invaluable experience in working with diverse populations and community resources. I received my certification as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor in 2005 and use these skills with the FUSE population.
What makes supportive housing different?
Supportive housing is different from my previous experience because I’m not sitting in an office waiting for people to come to me. I’m literally and figuratively meeting people where they’re at. I don’t just hand people resources, I’m actually making the resource connections happen. I get to begin working with individuals before they’ve landed in a detox facility. They may not be sitting in my office asking for help, but I have the opportunity to use my skills to help promote positive change in their lives.
A large part of the work with FUSE is helping clients navigate their complex medical needs. I teach clients how to come to medical appointments prepared with questions by having them write down issues as they come up and being a voice for them when they aren’t quick to assert their needs. Being there with them is so critical.
The success story that comes to mind is with a client who is well known among service providers and the criminal justice system in our community due to his long standing history of chronic homelessness and complex medical needs. His frequent hospitalizations and lack of attendance to necessary specialty care appointments/dialysis have only worsened his condition. Since working with him, he has been stably housed, engages with me, reaches out to me when he needs help managing his guest issues, is attending specialty care appointments, allows me to play a role in his care coordination, and attends his dialysis more regularly. Most of all, he chooses to be honest with me. He chooses to work with me, opens up to me, and allows me to support him. As a result, I believe the therapeutic rapport we’ve established and the work of FUSE has led to his housing success and overall improvement in his quality of life. Most importantly, he’s not fighting multiple complex medical challenges on the streets. He has the dignity that supportive housing lends by having a place to call home.
Lyla Ryckman Green is a Chemical Dependency Professional, Intensive Case Manager with the Washtenaw County FUSE program. Washtenaw County FUSE program is grantee of CSH’s Social Innovation Fund.