For Elana, Pathways Means Incredible Staff

  • Service Coordinator at Pathways to Housing Pa, explains why Housing First, matters to her and those moving out of homelessness in Philadelphia.
    Saving cats, finding housing, and changing lives are all in a days work for Pathways Team 3 Service Coordinator Elana.

Elana is not an idealist. “I like things that are practical. Things I can touch, hold, and feel.” She grew up in North Jersey, studied social work at Temple, and in 2016 came to work at Pathways to Housing PA. While the work can be challenging, she works with an incredible team, and she believes in her work. Her realism might just be the thing that makes her so good at supporting people with a history of homelessness.

As a service coordinator on Team 3, Elana is on the front lines, helping people move into new apartments, attend medical appointments, get into detox, and take care of everyday needs like shopping and paying bills. “I really believe in harm reduction,” she says. “My background was in sexual health, and harm reduction just made so much sense. How are you supposed to help someone if they don’t have a place to lay their head?”  

While she loves getting things done, Elana admits that sometimes working with participants can be hard. “Sometimes clients don’t appreciate our help,” she says. She recalls a woman who had been homeless for several years. “Our team spent a long time laying the groundwork for her to be housed,” Elana says, “she just kept refusing.” As the temperature began to drop last fall, the team grew increasingly concerned about her. “One day my teammate said to her ‘let’s go,’ and she finally said ‘Okay. Let’s go.’”   

For Elana, the most rewarding part of that experience was knowing her team was doing the best they could to support their participant. “Even if she didn’t stay in shelter, I would think of it as rewarding. It’s the cherry on top that she is getting the care she needs, is clean, showering, and isn’t using drugs. It was pretty rewarding to see that.”

When Elana isn’t fighting for human rights, she has a side job. “I’m team three animal control,” she laughs. “That’s my specialty." Many Pathways participants bring pets home, once they get settled into apartments, and they don’t always have the resources to feed them. Elana found a service called ACCT that offers free pet food, but it requires pets to have their shots and be fixed. “If you’re coming off the streets and you struggle to afford pet food, how can you afford to get your animal fixed?” she says. Not one to sit on her frustrations, Elana reached out to ACCT and together they are working on a solution to this problem. 

Elana’s dedication to her work is exactly why she fits in so well at Pathways. “Pathways staff do what they do because it’s the right thing to do. They do it because they really care,” she says. Pathways staff work in a team case management model, sharing a caseload to better offer support to clients and to one another. “Our staff is really, really dedicated, resilient and awesome,” Elana says. “It’s like a family.”

While Elana knows there will always be hard moments, she also knows she will always have her team. “You have to be prepared to not always have success stories, or people falling at your feet to say ‘thank you,’” she says. “But the golden moments with clients, and the staff relationships make up for all the other stuff.”

Pathways is always looking for dedicated staff to join our team. If you’re committed to making a difference in homelessness and you love working with incredible people, these jobs might be right for you.  

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