Treating participants like family

There are many factors that go into the outreach, intake, shelter, and housing of those at risk of instability.

From readying apartments to ensuring that families have the tools to make changes and sustain them, many moving parts — and professionals — work together to ensure those we serve are supported on a day-by-day, case-by-case basis.

Marisabel has been field operations manager for shelter-related programs in her region for two years, and in the field for 32. Pedro has been field operations manager for diversion, shelter, and housing programs for seven years, and also serves as shelter compliance officer.

Together, they tag-team oversight of housing instability programs and work to mitigate related factors such as trauma, mental health, domestic violence, abuse, addiction, chronic homelessness, and more.

Working with teams of site supervisors, caseworkers, direct care staff, a clinical director, school liaisons, family life advocates, a rehousing team, employment specialists, and a stabilization program, Marisabel and Pedro ensure people are connected to the supports they need, often within CHD.

“We’re constantly advocating for our families, with our main purpose being to bring them into our shelter system, to stabilize them, and get them back into permanent housing,” says Pedro.

“Marisabel and I have been in this field for a long time, and sometimes regardless of what plans we had for a given day, it really depends on what immediate need is going on. But no matter how difficult our jobs get, we’re fortunate that we have a really good support system.”

CHD shelter programs in Massachusetts maintain 263 units, serving over 350 adults and about 600 children annually.

Working in the field for many years, Pedro and Marisabel know how easy it is for a family to become destabilized.

“This could happen to anyone,” Marisabel says. “Often those we serve have the tools, they just don’t know how to put them in place. So it comes down to helping them sort things out within the whole team.”

“That’s the beauty of having these services on-site or in the agency. We can bring the participant or the whole family in and show them how each one of us can help them and their family. It’s a matter of letting them know we’re here. It brings hope,” she says.

Marisabel also helps run the Front Doors program, which allows those at risk of losing housing remain in their apartment. She also helps coordinate the Nurturing Fathers program, a 16-week group program dedicated to helping fathers connect with their children.

Something Pedro and Marisabel agree on is that program participants should be treated like family.

Their mantra for flipping a housing unit? “If you wouldn’t allow your mom or children to stay here, it’s not good enough.”

“We expect every day to be challenged,” Pedro says. “But I think that our approach has always been that we could be in their shoes; we could be that family; this could be my child; this could be a loved one — so how do we best support them with all that we have?”

Marisabel Perez & Pedro Rodriguez - Diversion, Shelter, and Housing Field Operations Leaders