Our Intake Supervisor, Sue Scholten, has been with LCBH for five years. In this article, Sue shares some perspectives on the integration of supportive services when helping renters with legal problems.
According to Sue, it all starts with the intake interview, which is not really an interview, but rather a conversation that involves listening to the multiple messages the person presents and the environment from which those messages emerge.
In the beginning, when listening to an individual’s story for the first time, we look for factual information that are legal defenses to an eviction and can inform the attorneys when deciding whether LCBH will be able to take the case or not. During this process, there are multiple messages about the “person in environment” that emerge and may be of concern to LCBH’s supportive services team. Underneath the basic facts of their potential legal case, there is the psychological and narrative messages that have evolved from long- term economic disadvantage, non-responsive institutional systems, and family and friend support systems with limited resources to assist this person.
Just as an individual’s personal experiences may create inspiring resiliency, for others there is psychological and social exhaustion that evolves from systems that create disadvantage and exclusion. It is in this undefined area of response to events that an individual may need additional assistance in the form of supportive services.
After intake, a series of events may (or may not) occur. If the case is accepted, the LCBH legal team will advocate for the renter, in and out of court, until a resolution is reached. In addition to assisting a client legally, the LCBH team also examines whether it is necessary for supportive services to step in and offer the client additional support. If a case cannot be accepted, the renter is referred to another agency.
LCBH’s supportive services team strives to affirm the worth of the individual, individualize any problems, express empathy and be non-judgmental. This is particularly important when the overall social environment may have the opposite response. LCBH’s supportive services team works with the renter to identify specific needs, provides links to services and referral sources for the renter, and assists, educates and advocates with the renter in a joint plan to obtain needed resources. Of course, not all of these steps occur at once with a client.
Effective supportive services efforts emerge from creating a safe place for the person in a trusting environment. Together, the supportive services worker and the individual look at the current situation and what may make it better. The focus is on the person being served. While it may seem simple, it takes a great deal of psychic energy and focus to understand the individual and help the individual understand themselves. Most often, the resources offered are housing, but clients often arrive with a variety of needs. Resources offered can often also include employment or training. This kind of assistance can just be the beginning and other resources are available for those who wish to do more for themselves.