TRAVERSE CITY -- Patrick Rachels suffered a spate of bad luck that brought him to the Goodwill Inn Homeless Shelter.
But following his six-month stay, Rachels began to rebound with a lift from the agency's Supportive Housing Services. The program assists with a variety of tasks tailored to fit each client, including help for shelter residents looking for their own place.
"There's no climbing out of a hole without some help ...," said Rachels, 51.
Program officials contacted a landlord so Rachels could move out of the shelter and into his own Traverse City apartment in November of 2006. He continues to meet monthly with housing services personnel.
"Basically, they just see that you are getting along all right," he said. "They are there for you, even if you've just got something going on and you want to talk about it."
Part of the philosophy behind the program is to push people to succeed so they don't return to the shelter or become homeless again.
"Once we got them housing before, they were on their own," said Ken Homa, director of housing services for Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan.
The service took off about a year and half ago and is supported through federal and state housing dollars. A case manager meets with clients and develops a service plan and offers ongoing aid such as bill payment reminders, help with rental unit upkeep and working with landlords.
Foundation for Mental Health Grand Traverse/Leelanau works with Goodwill to provide on-site services to tenants at an 11-unit facility on Woodmere Avenue. Foundation executive director Carol Moorman said residents must meet special needs, low income and homeless criteria. Tenants receive help with budgeting and transportation, among other services.
The supportive housing program currently assists about 20 individuals and families, mostly in Grand Traverse County, said Cindy Eveleigh, Goodwill's housing services manager.
Eveleigh said there's a big need for more units geared for low-income renters.
A portion of Rachels' rent is picked up through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
Rachels arrived at the shelter after losing his job and running out of money. He had been working downstate as a security officer when his car broke down and it became difficult to make the commute to work. He had ties to northern Michigan, and returned to the area.
"That's the way things can snowball on you. Once you knock one support away, everything else just falls," Rachels said.
Now living in his own apartment, Rachels is unemployed and job hunting. He would like to be a driver for the local bus system, and is thankful for the long-term approach of the supportive housing program.
"It's not that they just push you through and once you are out the door they forget about you," he said.