The Pilot House is a homeless shelter and therapeutic program for people who have been chronically homeless and struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol. "This is a homeless shelter for people committed to turning their lives around," says Betsy Fontes, Director of Shelter Programs/Social Services at Pilot House.
The program, which is part of the Community Action Committee of Cape Cod & Islands, received a stimulus award which it used to hire an employment, training and education case manager, Ricardo Novoa, last August. That, says Fontes and many of the House's residents, has made all the difference.
"It's been so much better since Ricardo came," says Edgar Casey, 62, a resident. As Casey notes, the new position means that the shelter can be open 24 hours. In the past residents had to leave the House at 7 AM and return at 2 PM when the
Casey, who has been at Pilot for about a year, says that leaving the shelter at 7 AM was difficult especially for the residents who had no place to go and no money to spend. "We would see people walking around sitting on benches, on bad weather days it was terrible," he says.
Novoa has also implemented workshops and classes to help the residents re-integrate into society. He is assisting them with their resumes, job searches, job interviewing skills and making use of the stimulus-funded computer center in the House to further help the residents with their financial and computer literacy skills. His impact is being felt in a very significant area: Over 40 percent of the residents
Novoa, himself was unemployed before getting this job. He had worked as a social worker for seven years in Columbia before come to the United States but couldn't find work in his field.
Bradford King, who is 59, is glad Novoa got this job. He is a recovering alcoholic and ended up at the Pilot House after he lost his job. "Ricardo provides guidance, a support system and direction to get back on your feet," he says. "You can't push someone who did detox back on the streets if they don't have job skills. With this disease chances are really poor with out the intense care and moral support Ricardo offers. Other places warehouse you. This place wants you to be
Fontes agrees. "We never let anybody go that doesn't have a plan," she says. "They'll just be back in the shelter."
For Novoa, it's all about working with the residents to get them to where they want to be. "It's a partnership," he says. "We work hard to help these guys put their lives together again."