There are more than half a million homeless people in the United States on any given night according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Connecticut, one of the wealthiest states in the nation, more than 10,000 people used homeless shelters in 2016. In the greater Hartford area alone, more than 2,000 adults were homeless. Of those, nearly 6 percent were determined to be chronically homeless or at risk of becoming chronically homeless within three months.
Eleni Rodis, acting director of research at the CT Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services and research associate at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work has received a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to work with the Chrysalis Center in Hartford to assist hundreds of individuals struggling with the compounded challenges of homelessness and substance abuse disorders.
The program will specifically work with people in a critical period for transitioning from homelessness to having stable housing, about six-nine months. This Critical Time Intervention model has been shown to be a crucial element of support for individuals transitioning from homelessness.
“It’s hard for people to adjust to having a home when they’ve been without one for an extended period of time,” Rodis says. “The challenges that led them to become homeless in the first place don’t go away once they have a home, especially substance abuse problems.”
Over the course of this five-year project, 500 individuals will receive the help and support they need to find and maintain permanent housing.
Chrysalis will work to help the individuals in the program retain housing and access the treatment and health care they need to address their substance abuse disorders and basic primary health care needs.
One of the main areas of focus will be to connect participants with InterCommunity Health Care in Hartford so they can receive primary and behavioral health care and also address physical wellness behaviors like diet and exercise. The program will also connect participants to social benefits like food stamps, insurance, and other welfare programs.
Following the CTI model, participants are discharged after the critical six-nine month period, allowing for a greater number of people to be helped over the course of the grant.
During the intervention period, participants should be connected to on-going services, have benefits put in place and have learned skills to maintain their housing without intensive support from the Chrysalis case managers.
Rodis will be responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of the program. Her analysis will provide invaluable feedback on the best way to design support programs for this population at this critical juncture in their lives.
“I think this really provides the support homeless and formerly homeless individuals need to help them stabilize in housing,” Rodis says. “This is a particularly vulnerable group of people who will really benefit from all the services being put in place for them.”
Eleni Rodis received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Baldwin Wallace University and a master’s from Wayne State University in clinical psychology. Rodis is currently the PI for four SAMHSA-funded evaluations. Her previous projects have focused on mentally ill, substance-abusing or co-occurring populations, many of which have also focused on housing and homelessness.