Our courageous and committed frontline staff have made our strategic COVID19 response possible. As National Social Work Month continues, we want to highlight another staff person who is going to extraordinary lengths to serve some of our most vulnerable clients.
Housing Case Manager Natalie Breeden works closely with people living in our Ogden Avenue Supportive Housing (OASH) and Dover Place buildings in La Grange. They are both under “lockdown” conditions, so Natalie makes sure residents have what they need to shelter in place.
Natalie, thanks for sitting down with us in the middle of all this. We’re sure you’re slammed.
No problem. At the beginning, some of our clients didn’t seem to take things too seriously—which was obviously nothing unique to them, a lot of other people didn’t. And I feel like some still don’t. But, it’s set in for our folks, and I’m here and at Dover to make sure they have everything they need.
Everything they need like..?
Food. Medication. Basic supplies. There’s value in my and others’ just visiting. I don’t want our clients to feel like they’re being locked up or punished because of this disease. Really, we’re trying to help them stay healthy and happy, and it’s important they know that someone is there for them. So, if nothing else, they get to see my smiling face pretty often.
You’ve been involved with us for a while. How did you start?
Well, former BEDS Executive Director Molly Salisbury’s been a longtime family friend, and she’s always encouraged me to get involved. Remember BEDS Plus Prom? I volunteered at BEDS Plus Prom in high school. In 2017, she encouraged me to apply for a summer internship, and a year later, I came back as an Americorps staff member. After that, I stayed as a Community Health Worker.
Like what? What do you do when you’re not focused on emergency response?
My work was already focused on health and behavioral health. The people in our facilities have higher levels of need in that area than some of our other clients, so I try to guide them to care when they need it and help them stick with it.
I’m also our internal Community Health Worker, so I help oversee our clinic with Pillars Community Health and AMITA (La Grange and Hinsdale), and I help connect clients with dentists, hair care, things like that. It might seem basic, but when you have to focus on bare essentials, like where to sleep, where to get food, and all that every single day, you can’t focus on your health. I mean, you realize you’re sick or that you hurt, but you have to put it aside for basic survival.
Connecting people with that history to care is the most rewarding part of my work. I just took a guy to get a spinal MRI. His back had made it hard for him to work, to sleep, to function period. This procedure takes hours in a hot, noisy, narrow tube, but, after he walked out, he just had the biggest smile. Because he knew it was finally on the way to getting better. That’s the difference we can make.