Case Manager Josephine Flores was recently profiled on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus' Disrupting the Status Quo blog. Her story is shared here with permission.
To hear her describe it, Josephine Flores’ adult life has been defined by struggle.
In recovery for the last 24 years, she bounced between shelters for months on end, dealt with modern hurdles such as identity theft and was forced to rebuild her life from the ground up as so many people experiencing homelessness in our community do. But that experience turned out to be the game-changer for Josephine. Once she finally got housed she was able to go back to college, get her degree in Human Services and began working with a number of different outreach organizations across the Denver metro area. She was a Case Manager/Detoxification Counselor at Arapahoe House, where she also earned her Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) level I certification, and worked as a Women's emergency services coordinator with Catholic Charities. Later, her work with the Mental Health Center of Denver and the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative put her in direct contact with a local population that needed her help, and introduced her to The Gathering Place, where she has now worked for four years.
“I just love it,” Flores says, “it’s a great organization and I’m able to help people find housing and get out of the same cycle of moving between shelters that I experienced.”
As a Case Manager, her day-to-day work can vary from helping members address basic needs, to filling out housing applications, to matching them with treatment programs, or accessing the other resources that are available to them. She spends a lot of time working one-on-one with members who are experiencing homeless or poverty and supporting them as they work to get back on their feet.
Case management work like this is core to The Gathering Place’s mission to foster a community of safety and hope where positive relationships, choice and essential resources can transform lives. As the only daytime drop-in center in metropolitan Denver that serves women, transgender individuals and their children who are experiencing poverty, many of whom are also experiencing homelessness, the organization is committed to connecting people to resources.
As a result, theirs is a very personal process. As new members come to The Gathering Place, they work with staff members to set goals for themselves and their loved ones and outline a plan to reach those goals. Maybe the goal is simply to find steady housing. Maybe it’s to secure a job. Or maybe they want to go back to school and complete their education. Whatever the case, their goals are theirs alone and it is up to them to, with the support of The Gathering Place, turn those plans into reality.
That’s Josephine’s favorite part of the job, helping empower members to improve their lives just as she did all those years ago.
“I've been there,” she says. “I've been homeless myself and I know what they're going through. I’ve walked in their shoes and I remember the difficult times I had locating resources and helping myself. You don’t find too many organizations that just focus on the populations that we do at The Gathering Place, and I think that’s an important difference. Some of our members are traumatized, or they’re coming out of domestic violence situations, and actually being able to sit down and help them put their lives back together is one of the things that I love about what we do here.”