Upward Bound House helps others find stability and success
From Nicole Borgenicht
For the past two decades, Executive Director Christine Mirasy-Glasco of Upward Bound House in Santa Monica has campaigned for better conditions for the homeless. First as Head of Grants and Programs at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), then as CEO of Beyond Shelter, one of the pioneers of Housing First, and later as Executive Director of People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) before moving to Upward Bound came home.
Mirasy-Glasco holds a bachelor’s degree in international law, a master’s degree in international and European law and a pre-doctoral degree in international business law. Their educational background served exclusively to work on human rights.
“My passion has always been homeless families and families in general,” said Mirasy-Glasco.
Families with young children are an invisible part of the homeless population. The common process of children helping to provide for their families while they are homeless often results in them becoming homeless as adults, which repeats the cycle.
“We need interventions to change the children’s lives before the problems arise or the children are accepted into the welfare system where they may be neglected in the foster family,” said Mirasy-Glasco.
Upward Bound House is a transitional housing facility where families live for six to nine months while receiving help with all aspects of family housing. Short-term goals include getting the children to start school, getting the kids to paper, setting up an adult budget for the family, reviewing employment goals, and helping with résumés and applications. Families also receive interview assistance, including clothing, career development, and income.
“Parents are often 18 to 24 years old and have an underage child in the family,” said Mirasy-Glasco.
Upward Bound House has a case manager, employment specialist, housing specialist and clinical manager for emotional support and therapy on the staff. There is also a common room for children, a pantry kitchen for groceries and household products, and a municipal farm that brings products into the pantry and offers an educational “wellness program”.
There is a whole network of people and organizations paving the way for Upward Bound House and other institutions. It starts with outreach, a coordinated access system (CES) that integrates many resources. CES has social workers, case managers, home navigators, and referrals for families.
“LA County organizations are a doorstep for homeless families to get into the emergency shelter or homeless service system,” said Mirasy-Glasco.
Another option for families to find an apartment is to contact a Los Angeles housing authority. Every city has a community housing division within LA County. Alternatively, families can choose the 211, a placement system for social services.
Nonetheless, CES will direct most of the customers entering Upward Bound House. CES also conducts a full assessment of the immediate needs of each family before they are accepted into the program. The evaluation includes their history leading to homelessness, demographics, employment, income and housing history, background check, and family needs.
“Upward Bound House is creating a housing and services plan to get the family back on their feet,” said Mirasy-Glasco.
Once the short-term goals are met, the staff organize all levels of support and training. With the complete registration forms, the case manager is re-addressing some of the reasons for homelessness. The financial wellness employee helps with job placement, while the specialist for staff housing supports families in finding accommodation and in the application process. Financial support is then agreed.
According to Mirasy-Glasco, “the first 90 days are the most critical”.
Families move in with security and utility deposits paid and two to four months of rent allowance, which decreases over this period. An emotional, health, and nutritional wellness program and nutritional support is included. An aftercare plan is drawn up to help families stabilize their homes.
“Follow-up care lasts up to two years and helps with every minor crisis so that it does not escalate again into loss of accommodation and homelessness,” said Mirasy-Glasco.
After Care continues to focus on financial wellness services, jobs, and savings with incentives by raising up to $ 1,000.
The success rate was phenomenal. Each year Upward Bound House has 400 families and 87 percent move to permanent housing; before COVID-19 it was 96 percent.
“The pandemic has exacerbated the problem, and once the housing moratorium is about to end, it will increase,” said Mirasy-Glasco.
She found that the top three challenges were lack of awareness, lack of resources and lack of affordable housing. There are also long waiting lists for affordable housing.
“The lack of awareness of homeless families is because people don’t see them,” said Mirasy-Glasco. “Families hide out of fear of losing their children and from judgmental people. Out of sight, out of mind refers to a lack of resources such as financial support and organizations for children also dealing with the epidemic, social and emotional health, life skills and no access to computer training, classes or art and music. “
When asked about her favorite aspects of Upward Bound House, Mirasy-Glaso said, “When a family joins the program with no hope and they thrive in the program, move to their own place where children come back to life as children. In the playground, only children, no feeling of homelessness. You feel emotionally and physically safe, mentally safe and cared for. “
House bound upwards
1104 Washington Ave., Santa Monica