Like our ASK THE SHELTER BEFORE INTAKE page list, this is also an ongoing list, and you can contribute your ideas to it by leaving a comment!
Case Managers, also called Social Workers or "Workers" who are employed in shelters, non-profits, and other governmental social services may or may not be educated in college. Some are but who can tell? Some have street experience or street smarts if they aren't book smart. Since these people have everything to do with YOU the homeless person who wants off the street, they are always subject to lots of sharing (gossip too) among the homeless in shelters and on the street. Yea, we hear this one or that one was once a junkie so if you are too maybe he's the one to work with, if he's not co-dependent.
If you find yourself resisting meeting with a person because they have proven to dislike you, sabotage you, or go against you, this is just like when you have a bad boss and you got to get a better one. And then another one after that maybe. BE SURE TO FIND OUT HOW TO CHANGE CASE MANAGERS and be careful, because we hear about case managers who revenge if you report them.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD CASE MANAGER?
(The HE used here is to indicate male and female and transgender!)
1) RESPECT for you as a human being who is a unique individual with your own personal story, needs, desires, hopes, wishes, talents, skills, values (and that includes religious beliefs or lack of.) (You aren't a stereotype.)
2) EMPATHY for you, which you should appreciate and not take advantage of. When you hear someone is "Caring" that usually means this one. Caring case managers are the ones who burn out first. Be sure to give them thanks when they are doing a great job for you. They need to hear your appreciation.
3) GOOD LISTENER How do you know? He's not taking phone calls and interrupting your time together to deal with other clients though God knows he has them. He's not always looking at his watch or cutting meetings brief or cancelling on you without explanation. You say something and his response indicates he heard you. Knows too that there are times when you really need talk and that's a good thing because when you do you're trusting him. Is never patronizing in his comments to you. Listens and also UNDERSTANDS YOU!
4) FLEXIBILITY Sure you should try to come up with goals but goals sometimes change as you do or when you become better informed or experienced. A good case manager doesn't give you demerits if you have to skip a meeting because you just took a friend to emergency. You have to buy something you need and can't put as much money in the account this month? Need shoes or new prescription eye glasses? That's reasonable.
5) WORTHY OF YOUR TRUST Example, DOESN'T GO BEHIND YOUR BACK TO YOUR FAMILY OF ORIGIN. Even if your family is from hell and especially if they are why you've lost everything, a good case manager never would say so, even if you do. (See listens to you, above.) A good person just doesn't rub salt into your wounds or insult you to get a reaction out of you. That's manipulative. A good case manager never goes behind your back to look your family up. He doesn't call them to inform them you're homeless and at the shelter. Your relationship with them is YOUR business. He doesn't play the role of a therapist to make you talk about them. You're an adult? Then it's up to you to reconnect with your family if and when you want to. A case manager may have the education of a therapist but therapy is therapy and case management is case management.
6) HONEST WITH EVERYONE HE INTAKES Hearing very different stories from other people on this person's case load? The worst kind of case manager you can have is someone who tells people what he thinks they want to hear and if other people on his case load have very different terms and conditions for staying at a shelter or getting housing, how can you believe him? Liars always forget what they said last so you'll be hearing different stories too. One day it'll be six months till you have housing and the next years. That's not the stability you need. That's not a person you can count on.
(We hear about a shelter that even picks homeless up in vans with promise of shelter JUST TO RETURN THEM TO THE STREET AFTER DOING INTAKE. This non-profit must get paid for a head count somehow!)
7) UPHOLDS THE LAW Does he expect you to break the law to get benefits? Is he eager for you to earn cash under the table so he won't have to help you with deposits to get an apartment? Does he just wait for the day you're feeling a bit down and discouraged so that you can be evaluated quickly - at some quack mental health facility that he personally refers you to - as mentally ill and become a psych patient? (What about the idea that you are supposed to be in therapy TO GET WELL?) What? He looks the other way when clients are known to be selling prescription drugs? You run the other way from such a person. He will not know you when you loose all benefits for life or you see the inside of a prison cell. What kind of role model is a law breaking case manager?
8) ALLOWS YOU TO CHOOSE And no we don't mean "my way or the highway!" Accepts that you have a choice of SSI lawyers, doctors (well we really don't have too much choice but we hope OBAMACARE WILL CHANGE THAT - you get the idea), etc. Routing you to "his" lawyer or doctor? Who knows? This guy may be even getting finders fees. (We heard of one case manager who orders his clients to go to a certain dental school where they are put to sleep for even a simple filling!)
9) DOESN'T ISOLATE YOU TO CONTROL YOU Does not expect you to break up with your lover, partner, wife, family as an agreement to get shelter or housing or anything else. You should do these things if and when you want to, in your own time, for reasons you understand on your own. You have a right to social and familial connection. Isolating a person by ruining their relationships is a real POWER trip and the red flags are waving!
He's an abuser.
10) FAIR An encyclopedia could be written about FAIR but fairness and all these other things kind of jell. Being fair means he pretty much treats everyone in the case load the same. No favorites who get before everyone else when everyone is doing the same thing. Read up on discrimination! It can be that a case manager favors people of a certain race, religion, ethnic background, etc.
11) RESPECTS YOUR PRIVACY AT THE SHELTER Your case manager may absolutely NOT discuss your private business with other residents, even if you discuss your private business with them. We hear of this violation of trust all the time. One case manager actually used some PI database to track down family members of one individual who had cut off from these people and DID NOT WANT THEM TO KNOW WHAT HIS SITUATION WAS in California. This case manager then violated his trust and privacy by CALLING these family members and informing them of this persons homelessness behind his back. Then on the basis that these people claimed they would take care of him - in another state that he had left years before - denied him housing. Who tipped the case manager off that this person had these relatives? Another resident - an ass licker - who wanted to be in good with the case manager. We should also add that respecting your privacy means that a case manager does not try to get his hands on your medical record by intimidating you to turn it over to him or try to influence your therapist into diagnosis.
12) NEVER EVER SEXUALLY HARASSES YOU Sexual Harassment is touching your body, making suggestive remarks, trying to get you to meet for a date or encounter, coming on to you, though there are other forms of sexual harassment or sexist behavior. (And yes we know it's not only males harassing females.) Most shelters say NO SEX ON THE PREMISES and we think you should go to a motel with another resident to have sex but we know sex happens at shelters. Just not with your case manager or any member of staff and not when your room mates are home. We know there are some residents who come on to their case managers as well. That is wrong. Keep it professional on your end. This person is NOT your best friend.
13) RESPECT FOR YOUR PERSONAL POSSESSIONS We hear of case managers and other management people at shelters who throw peoples things out into garbage bins or lock their things up in storage lockers for months to punish them. We hear about people being accused of being pack rats simply because they have a lot of clothes. (When you get your clothes off give away tables and thrift stores, you might be trying to assemble a work wardrobe or maybe you've lost or gained weight. When there is no money for clothing you may hesitate to give away what comes so precious to you.)
We hate the term "case manager" because we are not cases we are PEOPLE and we don't want to be "managed" we want a hand up.