January 2020 is already behind us. We’ve had days with temperatures near 60 degrees, and others with temps in the teens. Rain. Wind. Snow. Sleet. Sun. You name it, and January seems to have thrown it at us. On those cold days and dark, wet nights, I was grateful to have a warm home, comfortable sofa, and soft blanket to snuggle under.
Yet, as someone who spent over 6 years working for the New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority running their Section 8 program straight out of college, thinking of those who are living on the streets or in a crowded shelter is never far from my mind. Homelessness and the struggle to find suitable housing for those who are recovering from substance abuse or mental illness are two of the issues that pulled at my heartstrings and led me to join the board of directors at The Guidance Center of Westchester (TGCW).
Each year, TGCW’s housing staff works with around 400* people. Close to 50 children (under age 18) have a bed and place to call home through our various housing programs. The housing staff handles everything imaginable. They receive phone calls when a toilet breaks or when there’s an issue with the heat. They also connect participants to mental health, substance use treatment, and vocational services. They have to understand everything from Section 8 Housing to Social Security benefits. They teach participants about finances and budgeting, and make sure the participants are following up on their treatment programs. They work with participants on developing life skills (shopping, cleaning), and coach participants through the transition from homelessness to housing. They even help with employment and educational services.
TGCW’s housing staff does an incredibly big job which impacts far more lives than the program participants, yet much of it is widely unknown to most people. I am proud of the work they do, the lives they change, and the difference they make in helping our neighbors learn, work, and thrive.
Mitzi Ambrose-Washington, Board Chair
* 2018 census