Phase 1 starts the moment a new member walks in the door, and it lasts about 3 days.
When a new member first joins us, our goals are to ensure the person feels safe, welcomed, and valued. A welcoming environment shows regard for the person and helps create an environment in which the person feels it’s safe to heal. In this phase, we also want to orient new members to the program and to the facility, and to complete the paperwork needed to begin treatment.
Creating a warm and welcoming environment is not just the job of intake staff or clinicians. Connecting with someone and helping them feel that they belong is less about what you do than how you do it. Every staff member regardless of their role, can facilitate healing by warmly interacting with new members in the first minutes, hours, and days of their stay.
Why is Phase 1 important?
JOH programs can be hectic, and it can be a challenge to take the time needed to greet new members properly and help them feel at home. But it’s crucial to do so. A warm welcome is the first impression a new member will have of the JOH Project and of your program. How you welcome someone will shape their expectations and set the tone for your work together. No matter what you do to welcome a person into your program, it’s essential that your actions are genuine, kind, and unhurried.
New members come to the JOH community with—at minimum—the trauma of chronic homelessness. To engage in the collaborative work of recovery and wellness, members have to feel safe emotionally and physically. You can facilitate a feeling of safety through heartfelt conversation as well as by ensuring members know and understand the rules and systems in place to protect everyone’s safety.
Someone just coming into JOH will likely have a variety of urgent needs. They may be hungry or in need of clean clothes, for example, or they may need prescriptions refilled. Although you and other JOH staff will observe some needs and anticipate others, it’s important to ask the person what is most important to them to address in the moment. Doing so allows you to get information you may not have expected. It also engages the member in a partnership, putting the principle of person-directed care into action and modeling expectations for their JOH experience. Encouraging the member to tell you what they need and then addressing it also helps build trust, which will be an essential foundation for your work together in phases that follow.
Help new members learn about the nature of the JOH Project and about your program and environment. They may have heard about the JOH Project before arriving and could have absorbed some myths as well as some facts about the program. It’s particularly important to set expectations in Phase 1 by highlighting the long-term nature of JOH services. Let new members know that the JOH Project has both a residential and a continuing care component, which keeps members connected to services after they have accepted a housing match.
Ask the member what they would like to know about the program. Some members may want to meet the staff and residents right away, whereas others may prefer to have a list of rights, expectations, and responsibilities. Others may need to know the physical layout of your program to feel comfortable. Give the person the information they need to feel oriented and to remove the risk of surprise later on.
New members will need to complete treatment consent and authorizations in the first 24 hours of their stay. Talk with the new member about what the forms mean, let them know early on that these papers will need to be filled out within 24 hours, give them options for when they could complete the forms, and ask about what support they would like to complete the forms.