Greg Han Joins our Team as an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer

The months before my college graduation this year were a whirlwind. The big corporate employers were recruiting and graduate schools were interviewing students by the dozen. It was in this storm that everyone was asking the same question: “what now?”

The answer came easily for some. They embraced the chaos since they had good, solid plans for their futures. For my part, I began my job search with uncertainty. My long-term target was medical school, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to get there. I loved my student-athlete experience, and I would do it all again. However, I had spent the better part of two decades following routines and patterns established by my academics and athletics. I felt that it was high time to experience something new.

My desire for change is what led me to the AmeriCorps VISTA program. The swim teams that I have been a part of had all taken the time to serve the community, and the experience was one of the most enjoyable parts of being a student-athlete. For example, it was profoundly rewarding to escape the college bubble and engage with the local community, whether it was on a wildlife reservation clearing brush or on a football field working with shelter residents. Thus, I chose VISTA service so that I could commit to community engagement full-time.

In this way, I found my way to Journey Home. Hartford is close to my home and heart, and it made natural sense for me to return to my roots after gallivanting through college. It is my hope that I can make this year count for Hartford. My experience thus far has made me hopeful for what I can do with the remainder of the year. My work lies on the interface between social work and healthcare, and I see a lot of potential in my project for positive change. The Community Care Team can really help clients with complex needs that require the coordination of healthcare and social services. On the other hand, SOAR can streamline the process of applying for Social Security benefits, and thus make SSI/SSDI more accessible to those who need it most.

I am also glad that I can have this experience so that I can learn about healthcare from the perspective of social services. This way, I can enter medical school with a more detailed understanding of how I can better the community through medicine. I believe that this year will help me to become a better physician. My VISTA service is just starting, but I know that it won’t be long before I’m back on an academic campus. However, when I do emerge again, asking “what now?”, I think that I’ll have a clearer answer than I did during college. With growth comes perspective and learning, and I could not ask for a better place to grow than this.

Welcome Kelly!

Kelly Gonzalez joined the Journey Home team as our Peer Specialist in July 2017. Kelly’s passion and commitment to assist those who are most vulnerable, and her unique life experiences, make her great at her job. Prior to joining Journey Home full time, Kelly was a Housing Navigator with Community Renewal Team. Over the past winter, due to her incredible ability to build rapport and trust with those experiencing homelessness, she was hired at Journey Home in a part-time capacity to expedite our efforts to end chronic homelessness in our community. In her new role with Journey Home, Kelly is providing housing navigation services to the subset of the homeless population that are living with behavioral and mental health challenges, many of whom are cycling in and out of the shelters and the hospitals and emergency rooms. She is working with them to establish their housing and homeless histories and obtain the documents they need to obtain stable housing. Kelly is also trained as a SOAR Specialist and can assist her clients with the process of applying for disability benefits which greatly improves the potential for housing stability.

Alison Joins Journey Home Full-Time!

Two years ago we were fortunate enough to have Alison Scharr join our team as a part-time intern through the UConn School of Social Work. Alison had just graduated from Quinnipiac College and was in her first year of MSW studies. From the moment Alison joined us, she was off and running. Most of her first year was spent getting our Making a House a Home program off the ground. At the end of her internship, she had clearly demonstrated that she was an invaluable member of the team. She grew the program in ways we could only imagine. In a very short time, Making a House a Home went from operating out of a garage in West Hartford to a thriving program with storage facilities and a cadre of volunteers. While Alison finished up her second year of studies, she continued to work for us on a very part-time basis. She continued to shine at every turn and we knew that hiring her full-time would be a huge leap of faith financially, but a necessary step we needed to take as an organization. We are delighted that Alison is here with us day in and day out. Our volunteers adore her, the clients love her, and the work she is doing makes a difference every single day. She is a great addition to our team and we are thrilled that Making a House a Home can continue to grow and thrive.