Formerly Berkeley Food & Housing Project

Pushing Through a Pandemic to Get Clients Housed

The COVID-19 crisis has presented many challenges to our staff and clients alike, but we have worked even harder to get our clients housed and ensure their health and safety. We are grateful for the continued diligence of our staff as they have adjusted to increased hours and new protocols. That goes, not just for our staff, but the larger team of colleagues that we work with to get our clients into housing. One of our recent success stories highlights just this type of collaboration.

The Team (left to right, top to bottom) Roads Home Case Manager Jessica Mitchell, BFHP Associate Director of Programs Angela Upshaw, Veterans Transitional Housing Case Manager Romona Shewl, VA Case Manager Jai De Lotto, VA Liaison Tram Le-Nguyen, VA Housing Specialist Laura Rasmussen.

“Lawrence” came to our Veterans Transition Housing program* in April of 2019. He was a young man with a history of housing instability and behavioral issues. Lawrence came to our program with a supportive housing voucher from the VA that could have been used in Contra Costa County. With that in mind, various housing options in that county were identified for him. Lawrence turned them all down. He really wanted to continue to live in Berkeley to stay close to his daughter.

Determined to be near his daughter, Lawrence found himself an apartment in Berkeley that fit the bill! It was then up to our team to get to work. Associate Director of Programs, Angela Upshaw, sat down with Lawrence’s Transitional Housing Case Manager, Romona Shewl, to go over his plan. His housing voucher had to be transferred from Contra Costa County to Alameda County, and that would involve bringing in Tram Le-Nguyen, our Transitional Housing Liaison with the VA, as well as VA Case Manager Jai De Lotto and VA Housing Specialist Laura Rasmussen. The team worked to guarantee Lawrence would be able to use his housing voucher in Berkeley, but they knew it would take a long time for it to go into effect, so in the meantime, our Roads Home program worked to make sure Lawrence could cover his rent right away. Roads Home Case Manager, Jessica Mitchell did an intake with him and got him set up with Temporary Financial Assistance from the VA, which will cover his rent until the housing voucher can take effect.

This occurred right after Shelter in Place orders went into effect which created another hurdle when it came to Lawrence viewing the apartment and signing the lease. Jessica worked closely with the landlord to ensure social distancing and safety precautions were taken in order for Lawrence to secure his apartment.

Lawrence signed his lease almost exactly a year after he first entered our transitional housing program, and within one week he was moved in to his new home!

Berkeley Food and Housing Project was recognized by staff at VA Northern California Health Care System for ‘seamless collaboration’ in helping the VA team navigate through a complex housing search and placement process to assist a Veteran with a HUD-VASH voucher. The two teams worked together to support the Veteran with some complicated issues and found a way to view rental properties safely; their hard work allowed the Veteran to move into his HUD-VASH unit quickly.”

Kudos from Veterans Affairs on “Lawrence’s” case

Here at BFHP we are truly grateful for our dedicated staff and our supportive colleagues at the VA. If it weren’t for their willingness to collaborate, there’s no way we could do the work that we do!

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