When the Housing First model was first founded, it was assumed to be a permanent solution. The population targeted by Housing First was individuals who had experience chronic homelessness and have one or more serious mental illness (major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress and borderline personality disorder).
Moving from homelessness to stability, sometimes after decades of living unsheltered, is a difficult transition. It’s a mindset shift as well as a physical shift, and finding stability looks different for every participant. It can take time – sometimes, a lot of time – as well as significant wrap-around support.
"I'm so much more at ease in my life because of [this program]..." - Mark
However, no one person is the same. We are continually shifting our services and offerings to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our participants. Two years ago, we realized that a handful of our participants no longer needed Housing First services. They had reached a point where they were fully stable and independent on their own. And that led to the creation of our Alumni Association.
Our Alum transition to their own housing voucher and move from a Housing First team to working one-on-one with our Alumni Coordinator to address any needs. Our first class consisted of eight graduates, and the second class also had eight.
One such graduate is Mark. Mark joined Pathways fifteen years ago, all the way back in our first year of operation. He was a frequent attendee at our regular gatherings, and jumped at the opportunity to join our Work First supportive employment program at PFB when it launched.
After successfully completing the Work First program, Mark moved on to permanent employment at a new job. He was still a frequent attendee at our annual picnics and other community inclusion activities, but it was apparent he no longer needed comprehensive supports to maintain his independence.
Mark was one of the first to join our Alumni Association – in fact, he was one of the participants who inspired us to create this next step. He graduated in 2021, and was working full-time elsewhere when he heard that we were hiring a full-time employee for the newly launched Good Haul last year. Mark interviewed and was hired as our very first Mover in summer 2022, and he’s been a reliable and supportive member of the Good Haul team ever since.
Mark is not a fan of being the center of attention, however, he does appreciate the opportunity to speak about his experience and inspire others who are struggling with similar issues. We’re so proud of all that Mark has accomplished and are happy to celebrate his achievements, even if it does make him blush a little.