SELF TRANSFORMATION: A Year in Action
June 15, 2018, marked my one year of service working with some of the most amazing and resilient program participants and compassionate team members at Dr. Sylvester Outley’s legacy organization – SELF, Inc. Among several offers, my instincts drew me closer to selecting an opportunity that provided me with a balance between catalyzing change directly and systematically. At SELF, it was clear I would have an opportunity to directly affect the lives of individuals experiencing homelessness and, at the same time, influence the systems that work to mitigate homelessness.
SELF is one of the original architects of Philadelphia’s response to homelessness and substance-use support services. Thousands of lives have been saved, changed, and given second, third and fourth chances through a result of SELF’s compassionate care approach to service delivery. Past participants are now journalists, artists, SEPTA drivers, residential aides, case managers and homeowners. They are reconnected parents, husbands, wives, and partners. They are respected community members and community leaders. We honor all of those who have passed through our doors, and say a special prayer for those who have been injured or lost their lives through senseless violence.
Like all great organizations, SELF has experienced its share of challenges, setbacks, and heartbreaks. In the wake of the tragic death of one of our beloved team members in January 2016 and injury of another, SELF has been vigilant about the safety and security of our staff.
We have re-evaluated our security processes and added additionally features such as new internal and perimeter lighting. We have added magnetic locking systems at our larger sites to better control entry and exit patterns. We have also added additional staffing at high use times in the evenings and Winter Initiative. We have retrofitted participant room doors with windows that allow better visibility.
The painful incidents remind me of some of the arduous work our team members encounter every day when advocating for and assisting vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. The sacrifices made by our team members also remind me of the great humanity that is -- service.
We continue to learn from our nearly 30 years of service and have purposely embarked upon a path that strengthens our infrastructure, programs, partnerships, communications and invests in our team members.
To that end, our path is marked by amplifying our presence through rebranding efforts that focuse
d on enhancing our mission, vision, logo, website, and social media. We send out regular e-newsletters to our stakeholders reminding them of the important work that we do. And we’ve secured strategic placement of stories about us in news outlets to help impact policy. We also presented special policy events to strengthen our position as pioneers and th
Our work and advocacy efforts appeared in
, the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the
Philadelphia Sunday Sun
Southwest Globe Times
, and the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services
INVESTING IN OUR TEAM MEMBERS
In the last year, we expanded our ability to provide superior service to our participants, invested in our team, and supported their development by providing access to a number of important training opportunities. They included “Verbal De-Escalation Skills: Responding Effectively to Angry People and Working Effectively with People with Challenging Behaviors, “Trauma Informed Care,” and “Narcan Training” among many others. These will ensure our compassionate approach and commitment to professionalism.
We implemented an Employee of the Month program and monthly birthday acknowledgments replete with a birthday cake at each site and cards for each team member celebrating a birthday.
REINVESTING SAVINGS AND STRENGTHENING OUR INFRASTRUCTURE
We also secured a new administrative office saving approximately $70,000 that went back into providing direct services. We unified our procurement process thereby increasing internal efficiencies and netting additional savings. We
completed a full IT infrastructure assessment and contracted with IT Data to build a new IT infrastructure across all SELF programs using savings realized from our FY2018 budget. The latter will allow SELF to collect and analyze important participant data to help improve service delivery and better understand trends related to homelessness with a goal of systemic improvement. And we initiated SELF’s first permanent-supportive housing program and advanced our efforts to provide a model of service continuity from emergency housing to permanent housing.
PARTICIPANT FOCUSED APPROACH
We also returned to recognizing and engaging the voices of our participants by reinstituting the SELF Community Advisory Board. The S-CAB is comprised of current and former SELF program participants. It’s goal is to inform best practices, enhance quality improvement, garner valuable feedback, and lengthen SELF’s overall transformative footprint in the community. We have also introduced an anonymous participant feedback survey that allows us to assess our performance by measuring current participant satisfaction with the quality of our services based on their experience. We use this information to further improve our participant engagement and service delivery.
OUR EXCITING FUTURE
Together, we have accomplished a great deal, but we're not done yet. There remains a good more work to be done.
We intend to improve the diversity of services we provide by using data to inform new programming that meets participant needs comprehensively. We plan to continue developing current and new partnerships with a goal of transforming lives and rapidly moving participants to self-sufficiency and permanency. We will continue to honor the voices and lived experiences of homeless individuals to drive real solutions.
Building on our successful efforts to shine light on the medically fragile homeless population, we will educate our community leaders about the diverse needs of the city’s homeless with a goal of developing protections against the abuses we have witnessed first-hand around patient dumping.
With the dedicated work of SELF team members and our program partner Urban Affairs Coalition, the support of the UAC/SELF Advisory Board, guidance from the SELF Board of Directors, leadership from our Chairman and CEO Rev. Dr. W. Wilson Goode, and the incredible support of the Office of Homeless Services and Office of Addiction Services, we will continue to honor Dr. Outley’s legacy, build on Dr. Goode’s legacy, and create a lasting legacy of individual and community transformation th
at is SELF - Strengthening and Empowering Lives and Futures.