At Compass Housing Alliance, our programs are designed to meet people where they are in a trauma-informed way. The agency’s Program Directors are passionate about this service model.

Robert Bowery has worked at Compass Housing Alliance for more than 11 years and is the agency’s Program Advisor and current Interim Director of Emergency Services. He has helped develop the training program that Compass Housing provides employees.

“We have a training that we require our staff to undertake,” he said. “We’ve developed the training over the past few years in response to the unique needs that our guests and residents have.”

The training is based on trauma-informed care. Trauma-informed care is a combination of insight into our residents’ and guests’ pasts and actions based on understanding. 

Trauma can impact early childhood development and affect people throughout their lives. They can have emotional problems, problem-solving issues, impulse control, and of course, issues around trust.

“We work side by side with our residents and guests,” Robert said. “This is more like a partnership than a provider-client relationship.”

Robert brings not only a behavioral health point of view to service but a unique lens for building design as well. He thinks about the color of walls, the layout of community rooms, color coding the different floors to aid in comprehension, and making sure that the furniture meant to serve children is appropriately sized. 

“Some people have a distorted view of people experiencing homelessness,” Robert said. “People can make a change in their lives if they have the support to believe in themselves. Homelessness isn’t only driven by internal factors, there are a lot of systemic problems that are driving it. Problems like school to prison pipelines, lack of medical care both mental and physical, lack of opportunities, and education. We take a holistic approach because that is the only way to create the space needed for people to move forward on their own.”

Teena Ellison is the Director of Housing Services. She brings over 30 years of experience in social services with the past 20 in supportive housing to the role at Compass Housing Alliance and thinks about behavioral challenges as a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

“You have to look at the cause of the behavior,” she said. “Every behavior is a story. You need to make corrections, but how you respond should be informed, trauma-informed. You need to understand the need they are trying to fulfill with that behavior.”

She talked about building rapport and community by building trust. The program managers have incorporated community days, group activities, BBQs, and other gatherings (pre-COVID) to build that sense of connection. 

“We want people to become independent,” she said. “We want to help them build themselves up, learn to trust again, and raise up their quality of life.”

Teena believes that in order to build trust and a safe community, you need to have integrity and standards – right down to how you fill out forms. 

“We all have the same dreams and aspirations,” she said. “No one chooses to go through homelessness. Not everyone has the same toolkit to reach into when challenges come up. People have different experiences, but that doesn’t mean they should have a bad life. Everyone deserves healthcare, education, and access to opportunities, no matter from where they came. That’s why I love working at Compass Housing Alliance. We see the person for who they are and welcome them in.”

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