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Describing is something we are taught when we are very young. Once we learn our colors, the idea of basic description falls by the wayside. From that point on, we are taught to evaluate and analyze.

A focus of our client therapy this month has been to re-learn how to describe – to take a situation and describe one’s experience without judging that experience.

This can be helpful for anyone. Describing a situation and one’s experience is especially helpful for our clients at VeraMax House who are faced with difficult experiences every day. It can be a lot easier to analyze a situation after it has passed than to stop and ask oneself what you actually felt.

In working with clients at VeraMax House, I challenge them to just picture the scene and the physical sensations they experience. I ask for specific thoughts and sensations, and not the why. Removing the why, the analysis, can be freeing and can help our clients be more in touch with their feelings and emotions.

Working on therapy with clients is an important aspect of what we do. Empowering them to know themselves better helps provide that stable base they need to succeed.

Hailey Pobanz, M.S.W.
Clinical Case Manager

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As the saying goes, “April Showers Bring May Flowers.” Similar to the change much of the northern hemisphere sees this time of year, VeraMax house has seen its fair share of change and development during the transition from April to May. In house, we are adapting to a new schedule. At the end of April, one of our Clinical Case Managers, Jennifer Maghsoudi, M.Psych., has moved on to a fulltime position in San Francisco. We wish her well!

As of May 18, I will be working an additional day to help our present VeraMax House clients. Jennifer has been working with me as their future Clinical Case Manager to provide a smooth transition for all our clients during this time. Starting May 23rd VeraMax House will be open Monday, Wednesday, Friday during normal business hours.

In addition to this in-house change, four more clients were housed just as we transitioned into May. Many of our newly placed clients have been housed at Armstrong Place Senior Housing, which is a new facility. When I started at VeraMax House, Armstrong Place was just beginning to accept applications. That is almost 8 months ago now! It just shows how much time it takes for housing applications to go through after the initial application is submitted. I commend all my clients who stuck it out and are now happily moving into not just a low income apartment, but a place they can call home.

Hailey Pobanz, M.S.W.
Clinical Case Manager, VeraMax House

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Outreach is a crucial aspect of VeraMax House (VMH). It allows us to have a presence in the community and connect with potential clients.

As part of our outreach efforts VMH staff has begun collaborating with the San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). Established in 2004 the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) consists of caseworkers who conduct outreach to those living on the streets. The team offers benefits such as medical and mental health services, substance abuse treatment and transitional housing opportunities.

Once a month, VMH Case Managers will go on outreach with the HOT team. On my first go round with HOT, I learned so much and realized the crucial importance of our collaboration with them. Instead of clients coming to them, the HOT team uses van transportation to locate their clients and other homeless individuals directly on the streets.

With limited staff at VMH it’s important to have a team to conduct outreach for safety reasons. The experience and knowledge of the case workers with the HOT team have benefited VMH greatly and I look forward to learning more from our collaboration.

Hailey Pobanz, MSW

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Hope in 2011

This year is starting out hopeful!

After several months of seemingly insurmountable obstacles to finding housing, one of my clients has achieved housing in a quiet, safe place. She is now free from feeling like a prisoner (in shelters you have to check in, wait around for meals, clean up, be vigilant to make sure others are not stealing your belongings, and go to bed all within a monitored time constraint).

This kind of structured constraint on time can severely impact people’s psychological wellbeing, especially those that have till recently led independent lives, like many of our clients. It is exciting to witness liberation from the cycle of homelessness because I know how easily one can become homeless and how difficult it is to then find long term housing. That is the good news!

Unfortunately, it is taking too long for many of my clients to find housing and this affects their health, their motivation, and their ability to find jobs or other assistance. They must constantly be focused on the day to day and at the same time on applying and contacting programs (a more than full-time job for people who are at retirement age).

I’m hoping soon that I can report more of my clients have found housing, but for now one is great! I appreciate it, and I know she does too.

Jennifer Maghsoudi, M.A.
Clinical Case Manager

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In January, 2011 VeraMax House worked briefly with Julie Gordon while she filmed in San Francisco for a documentary on homelessness.

“No Place Like Home” draws attention to the growing problem of homelessness in America and the unique problems faced by women in this situation.

Julie Gordon was particularly interested in working with VMH because it was the only organization she could find in the country that served the particular niche and fills the gap that older women tend to fall through. VMH support was instrumental in making the San Francisco footage for the documentary possible.

In addition to working on the film Ms. Gordon was kind enough to offer her filming skills and assist VMH in working on their own promotional video, including a client testimony. I had been working on writing a testimony with my client Margaret during our last couple of sessions. She felt adamantly about her success. She had a strong desire to tell her story and share her experience at VMH. When I mentioned she could have the opportunity to tell her story on camera, Margaret was nervous, but also very excited. You could see her eyes light up.

The women we serve at VeraMax House have found themselves at their lowest point. They have few people to talk to and few opportunities to feel strong. I think for Margaret helping with the film and giving her testimony gave her that opportunity.

Daily we work with our clients to find their inner strength. We empower them by whatever means to achieve their individual goals.

Seeing the result of such work is incredibly rewarding, and beneficial to VMH and our community.
Special thank you to Julie Gordon for helping VMH and our client achieve this!

Hailey Pobanz, MSW
Clinical Case Manager

P.S. For film updates, check the filmmakers’s website  http://www.gordonandhart.com.

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With all the songs with the word “home” during this season, i.e. Home for the Holidays, Celebrate Me Home, I’ll be Home for Christmas,etc., it is no wonder that our clients feel a bit left out and resentful about their circumstances right about now. Although we have been helping our clients apply for housing there are just too few low-income vacancies and too many people who need housing. However, we are infusing our resource center with a bit of Holiday hope! Our team is looking for donors who will help our program assure that the neediest clients have a happy holiday. Clients will submit a “wish” list and donors are matched to individual clients. Gifts range from financial aid for housing to hats and winter coats. I personally am also excited about our Holiday cooking party. We will invite our clients to get together and cook a fabulous Holiday meal in Mary Elizabeth Inn’s Kitchen this month. This will give us time to celebrate with our clients and rejoice in the true spirit of the season: togetherness, comfort and joy which are also the true meanings of home.

Jennifer Maghsoudi

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A Tonic Event

A Tonic Event

On Thursday night, November 18th, VeraMax House held its first Guest Bartending Fundraiser at Tonic, a small lounge with the welcoming atmosphere of “Cheers” on Polk Street in San Francisco. Board Member Heather Volante, Executive Director Joyce August, and Case Manager Hailey Pobanz all guest bartended from 6 to 9 pm to raise money for VeraMax House. All tips and any donations made at the door went directly to fund VeraMax House services.

Happy Hour started slow, but by 8 o’clock the bar was busy and so were the guest bartenders. Everyone had a good time behind the bar, friends and colleagues enjoyed a few cocktails and watching Joyce learn how to mix cocktails. Everyone was a good sport and the event was enjoyed by all.

The guest bartenders raised $246 in tips, which was donated directly to VeraMax House. VeraMax House looks forward to doing more fundraisers in this fashion and hopes to get more people involved in the future.

Thanks to all who contributed before and after, to our Board members and their friends, as well as Tonic’s great staff.

A big thank you to all who attended, we couldn’t have done it without you!

Hailey Pobanz

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