Meet Roberta from Housing Assistance!

What is your role at CHS?
I am a Community Support Specialist II for the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program. I manage a caseload of folks experiencing homelessness and help them maintain their housing in the community by connecting them with resources and helping them set and reach their goals. As a Level II staff member, I provide support to the ESG team by acting as a liason with Supervisors, helping to train new staff members, and conducting file reviews.

What path led you to CHS?
I started working in the Drug and Alcohol and Corrections field when I was two years clean from my addictions to heroin, alcohol, and other drugs. I worked in that field for over 25 years, but started to feel in deep confict with the direction that services were changing. However, I had never done anything else, and my only formal education was a GED that I had obtained through the Program for Female Offenders. The new ways of doing this work were truly hurting my spirit, but I kept telling myself 'you don't know how to do anything, and nobody wants someone with no education and your background', so I stayed. I had purchased my own home at this point and was established in my recovery, so fear of not being able to find something else kept me planted until I found this job posting at CHS and learned that I can be accepted for who I am. 

How has CHS helped you to grow?
Every single co-worker has made me feel supported from the very start, as the 'open door policy' across the agency made me comfortable to ask for help and has helped my self-esteem tremendously. I was so convinced that I didn't know how to do anything, but am always reminded that nothing is a mistake, but a learning opportunity. I finally felt measured by more than my education, and surrounded by people who built me up. They saw something in me that I didn't see in myself and pushed me past my fears; I now lead an 'Addiction 101' training for staff across the agency to share my knowledge.

What are you most proud of in your career?
The second client I ever worked with in ESG is a single mother of 4 children, and had lots of barriers to becoming and remaining housed. Through our work together, she was able to go back to training to work full-time as a CNA, put her children in daycare, and built such a positive relationship with her Landlord that I was able to advocate for him to lower her rent so she could self-sustainably live there. I check in from time to time, and she's still doing well. As of tomorrow, I will have been clean for 29 years and I can tell you one thing: helping someone end an episode of homelessness is a high like no other drug has ever given me.

How do you practice self care?
I keep my bicycle in the bed of my pickup truck at all times. As soon as I leave work every day, I drive over the bridge and ride the same 16 mile stretch of the Millvale Trail, which is very meditative for me. I also travel all over the East Coast to attend music festivals-- I couldn't live without blues and jam bands. I go to a lot of shows with 'The Yellow Ballooners', a group of other people in recovery along with our allies. We carry yellow balloons with us so that people know that there are people they can be sober with, even in a music festival atmosphere, and we hold 'Gratitude Meetings' in between sets. And we dance, and dance, and dance.