On May 11th 2011, MHA began a partnership with the Department of Social Services to operate the Single Homeless Assessment Center (SHAC). In honor of the program’s 10th anniversary, we spoke with members of the SHAC team, including staff from MHA, the Department of Social Services and Volunteers of America. Hear from them in their own words as they share more about what makes this program special and how the work that they do is vital for the wellbeing of our community.
Patrice Monaghan, Director of Single Homeless Assessment Center (SHAC), MHA Westchester
“We focus on bringing a person-centered, comprehensive mental health and substance use assessments to individuals who are homeless in the county. As referrals to treatment programs and shelter placements are made, individuals are involved in the decision-making process and treated with respect, empathy, kindness, and without judgement. Many individuals who are homeless face enormous stigma and prejudice. SHAC staff connect and engage with them at a time when many feel alone and at a great disadvantage, helping them re-establish hope and goals that they aspire towards. SHAC values our collaboration with DSS, who support our work; the Volunteers of America, who provide case management services; and Greenburgh Health Center, which provides assessments. This teamwork is essential to the well-being of the individuals we serve.”
Miguel Velazquez, Program Administrator Homeless Services, Office of Temporary Housing Assistance (OTHA) at DSS
“The DSS/SHAC contract with MHA has proven to be indispensable in servicing people experiencing homelessness because it provides complete psych, social and medical evaluations for every client. Based on these evaluations, referrals are made to a number of programs and often to congregate level facilities through CASAC assessments. The attentiveness to a client’s medical or mental need has in a multitude of cases, prevented a serious emergency from occurring. Individuals can benefit greatly from these referrals because they are based on an extensive clinical evaluation covering most aspects of an individual’s health and social life. The collaboration between our agencies is unique because we communicate as often as necessary in order to get someone the urgent care that they need. It makes a huge difference in the lives of a vulnerable individual when there’s a team working together on their behalf. Wishing MHA continued success!"
Sasha Meyer, Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC), MHA Westchester
“I’ve had the pleasure of working for SHAC since 2017, when I was hired as a Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor. In my role, I meet with all single adult homeless clients who reside in Westchester County. During their assessment process, I conduct a substance use evaluation, asking about multiple life areas and the possible impact of substances on them. When needed and recommended, I assist in referrals to all levels of substance use treatment - outpatient, inpatient, detox, etc. With the completion of our 3-day SHAC assessment process, the hope is that the client will receive any additional supports recommended by our team of MHA social workers, Greenburgh medical doctors and myself. We pride ourselves on demonstrating empathy, respect and compassion for our clients during this transitional process in their lives.”
Allissa Cloer, Director of Mid-Hudson Homeless and Chemical Dependency Services, Volunteers of America
"Over the past decade, we have sincerely enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside the MHA team at the Single Homeless Assessment Center to meet the needs of our mutual clients. The partnership that has developed has benefited our clients, staff, and the program. Congratulations on ten years! We look forward to continuing to work together to assist the residents of the Grasslands Homeless Shelter."
Yamira Manrique-Rutgers, Clinician, MHA Westchester
"I began working at SHAC about a year and half ago. We evaluate clients that have fallen through the cracks and have not been able to get the help they needed which has contributed to their homelessness. Due to our evaluations, we have been able to refer a countless number of clients to much needed mental health and substance use services, and other community-based services that have set the clients on the right path to regain their independence."
Jennifer Colon-Rios, Administrative Assistant, MHA Westchester
“I have been a part of the SHAC team since the beginning and have worked with many different people throughout the years, including staff members and clients. I have had the opportunity to help translate assessments and have compassion for individuals who are homeless. We can all help those who are homeless by donating clothing, toiletries or other needed items.”
Julia Siegel, Clinician, MHA Westchester
“My introduction to SHAC was interesting as I joined the team during the pandemic. I quickly learned the importance and uniqueness of the program. Not only did the pandemic present particular challenges for all, it also required a reconfiguration of SHAC’s policies and procedures. SHAC rose to the occasion. Our clients who are experiencing the effects of temporary housing are resilient and have overcome many challenges. By combining case management, medical, mental health and substance use assessments, we are able to assess our client strengths and treatment needs. Through SHAC’s efforts, we encourage our clients to build upon their strengths and help them reach their goals."
Zotica Medina, Clinician, MHA Westchester
“I joined the SHAC team as a clinician in the fall of 2018. There are many reasons people experience homelessness: eviction, lack of affordable housing, struggles with addiction, and so forth. NYS statistics indicate around one-third of homeless single adults living in shelters and two-thirds of individuals sleeping on the streets or in other public spaces, experience mental health issues or substance use disorders. At SHAC we conduct comprehensive mental health and substance use assessments to individuals temporarily housed through the Department of Social Services. The biggest reward in helping those who are in temporary housing is knowing I’m able to make a significant change in that person’s life by connecting them with services they will need to improve their independence, obtain employment, go to school, develop a healthy social support network, improve their interpersonal relations and decrease the need for hospitalizations.”