Program Spotlight: The Assessment Team

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March is not only Women’s History Month, but is also Social Work Month. With that in mind, we wanted to profile our fantastic Assessment Team – a trio of experienced, dedicated women who make the critical initial contact with our families. Using the best-practice SPDAT (Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool), THC’s Assessment Team evaluates homeless families in the shelter system and determines the appropriate type of housing, whether Rapid Re-Housing, Permanent Supportive Housing or other housing options. THC is one of only three organizations in the District to administer the SPDAT and evaluate homeless families. Thanks to the team’s assessments, families are matched with the housing, case manager and services that best suit their needs and provide them with a path to stability. Read on to see what Latoya, Sara and Arianne had to say about working at THC and their goals for the year.

Latoya Hagins, Manager of Family Assessments

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Tell me a little about yourself.

My Name is Latoya Hagins, I am the mother of three amazing children and I’m originally from Brooklyn, New York. What makes me special and unique is I am a first generation college graduate. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, and reading when I have the opportunity to.

Before becoming employed with THC, I worked in the social service arena for one of the many TEP (TANF) vendors in DC as a Lead Case Manager. My duties included assisting families receiving government benefits with Job Readiness and Employment Opportunities to ensure that they remained in compliance with their required activities hours and maintained their benefits. My job also consisted of barrier removal such as assisting with housing, child care, vocational education and a host of other support services needed for the family to become one step closer to stability and self-sufficiency.

How long have you worked at THC? Describe what you do.

I am currently the Manager of Family Assessments and have been a part of the THC family for approximately 3 years, and hopefully many more successful years to come! In this role, I provide leadership to a small team of Assessment Specialists that has been tasked with assessing all homeless families in the shelter system utilizing a comprehensive tool known as the F-SPDAT (Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool). The F-SPDAT is used to evaluate the supportive services needs for families and to provide a recommendation for the appropriate level of housing services intervention such as rapid re-housing, permanent support housing, and other housing options.

I also work alongside The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness staff at DC General Emergency Family Shelter and the Days Inn Hotel to ensure that all families’ needs are being identified via this assessment tool.

The importance of the assessment team has been critical to THC and other partners in the homeless services arena in that we are often times are the initial people collecting information from the family as it relates to barriers, supports needed, and length of homelessness. We then create a detailed document that captures the family’s history and story in an effort to link the family with a proper service provider.

How long have you all been working together?

I have worked with my team for under one year. This team has always been small, which made us very close. Since we are a team of only three employees of THC, what makes us unique is that we all have first-hand knowledge about the issues our families are facing. We are also truly passionate about we do and we believe in the work we do. My team has an outlook of, “we may not be able to change and transform all lives, but we can still make a difference one family at a time.”

What are the three best things about working at THC?

My favorite thing about working at THC is assisting and connecting with the families. I have first-hand knowledge of the homeless system in DC, so in a sense I am not only working for THC as an employee, but I am giving back. I truly enjoy working with such a phenomenal staff. And finally, I just LOVE what I do!

What is the biggest challenge in your job?

The biggest challenge in my job is trying to remain an optimist for families in the midst of adversity and the homelessness crisis in the District. The District of Columbia has used the term “affordable housing”, but honestly, affordable housing just doesn’t exist here. Working in the shelters, I see many families who have recycled back into the homeless system time and time again. This is the disheartening part of my job.

What are your goals for 2016, both personally and professionally?

My goal for 2016 is both personal and professional, that is too complete graduate school.

 

Sara WallenSara Wallen, Assessment Specialist

Tell me a little about yourself.

My name is Sara Wallen.  I was born in San Antonio TX.  I have three beautiful children that are my world and take up all my free time!

I graduated from the University of the District of Columbia with a degree in social work. I was a therapeutic foster care social worker for years before coming to work at THC.

How long have you worked at THC? Describe what you do.

I have been with THC for almost a year now working as an assessment specialist. The support and one-on-one supervision with the team lead makes for a great team. My role as an assessment specialist is to gather as much information from the family to assist them in finding housing, maintaining housing once housed, identifying supportive services that the family may need, and identifying barriers that the family may have. It is important that our clients feels comfortable and open discussing their lives, so building a rapport and making them feel at ease can pose as a challenge. But in most cases, I am able to engage my clients and gather the information I need without issues. Once the information is gathered I complete my summary report for the case managers to begin the working with the clients to become housed.

Our team is small and I think that’s what helps us be close. There is a great working relationship and a friendship between us as a team. I personally like the small team because it does allow us to work close together and get to know each other better.

What are the three best things about working at THC?

  • Being able to work with family that are homeless. I went into the social work because I want to be able to assist people in reaching their goals. I have had my own trials and tribulations over the years and can relate to and understand what my clients are going through.
  • I like the fact there are a number of avenues and different facets of the agency that I am able to grow and work in.
  • I like that everyone is friendly. When we meet monthly for the staff meetings it’s nice to know that people I may not know and teams I may not know are always nice and friendly.

Arianne Robinson, Assessment Specialist

Tell me a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in NW Washington, DC. I attended Virginia State University and received a B.S. in Psychology. I am currently enrolled in the Masters of Social Work (MSW) program at Howard University.  I enjoy spending time with my family, listening to music and watching movies on the Hallmark Channel. Before THC I was head case manager with The ARC of DC working with individuals with intellectual disabilities.

How long have you worked at THC? Describe what you do.

I have been with THC since April 2013, and am an assessment specialist. I administer the SPDAT assessment at DC General and the Day’s Inn motel.

Although I have been a part of the THC family for a few years, I am new to the assessment team, joining the team in December 2015. I believe what makes my team special is the work we do.

What are the three best things about working at THC?

  • Serving homeless families in DC and assisting them with obtaining stable housing
  • Being one of the three agencies in DC to administer the SPDAT to families
  • Having the opportunity to fight for more affordable housing in DC

What’s the biggest challenge in your job/working at THC?

The biggest challenge in my job would be seeing the children at the shelters. Who doesn’t want the best for her child? For some parents, one little obstacle such as losing job may have caused them to lose everything.

What are your goals for 2016, both personally and professionally?

My goals for 2016 are to continue working towards my MSW and I am hoping to travel more. I also want to continue to grow and become better at my job.

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