Once an individual or family has been accepted into a housing support program, the support worker (aka case manager) must work to set the tone for successful home visits. This starts with the very first visit. Practicing the tips below consistently – right from the beginning – and communicating these expectations to the people you are supporting results in more focused interactions and better case management results.
Be on Time & Stay on Time
The home visit is a professional interaction with a client. For the home visit to be taken seriously and to reduce missed visits, from the very start it is critical that the support worker is on time. Time management and not trying to see too many clients in any given day is essential to ensure being on time more often than not.
At the beginning of the home visit it is also important to outline how much time you have for the interaction that day. These will vary in length depending on the amount of material to be covered off during the visit. Once you lay out the time for the visit, do not exceed it.
Outline Your Objectives for the Visit at the Beginning
A home visit is a highly structured conversation in the case management process. It is NOT a matter of showing up, checking in or just seeing how they are doing. It is a purposeful meeting to advance the case plan.
At the beginning of the home visit, remind the client of the three objectives that are going to be covered during the session. These objectives would have been decided upon at the conclusion of the previous home visit. Objective based interactions keep the conversation on track and heighten accountability in the case management process.
Ask that the TV, radio, etc always be off during home visits so that you can hear each other clearly without distractions.
Ask the client to hold all non-urgent phone calls and texts during home visits. Avoid being a hypocrite – leave your own phone alone too!
With the exception, perhaps, of some family members, ask that there be no guests during the home visit. Not only can this be distracting, but it can also present a safety risk. Plus there is the matter of compromised confidentiality if others are within earshot.
Acknowledge When the Interaction May be Difficult or Have Conflict
It is best to express empathy and not sympathy. When we are faced with what may be a hard conversation, we may have a tendency to shy away from it or to sugar coat it. In instances where the topic may be unpleasant for the client, I recommend starting with statements like, “This may be uncomfortable for you but it is important that we talk about (subject matter) so that you don’t lose your housing.”
Know your Role
Your role is to be a case manager, not a therapist, armchair psychiatrist, friend, chaplain, etc. Your job is to keep them housed and get them connected to supports for long-term housing and life stability. Your role is to be a catalyst for positive change. You do the hard support and they do the hard work. If you are confused on your role, home visits are more difficult to get results.
Embrace the Awkward Silence
When moving forward with your objectives for the visit, there will be times when the client does not readily engage in conversation or where his/her answers to questions are short responses without much detail. Do not rush in with the sound of your own voice or a litany of follow-up questions. Sometimes when we embrace the silence it creates a safe place – albeit sometimes an awkward pause – for the client to speak first and reveal more information. Our rush through the conversation may diminish her/his capacity to share. If you do all of the talking during the home visits there is not a tone set for sharing.
Take Care of Your Safety
You are responsible for your safety during a one-on-one home visit. Ensure you have mapped out an escape route from the moment you enter in the event that the unexpected (and highly unlikely) occurs where there is an altercation or other risk to your well being. Do not get cornered into an area of the apartment. Avoid bringing valuables into the home. Do not set backpacks or briefcases on the floor in buildings known to have bed bugs. If there are weapons of any sort, ask that they are always stored before a home visit. Ensure someone always knows when you are going to a home visit, where you will be, and what time you are expected to be completed.
Try practicing these suggestions and I suspect you will find yourself with more focused and more successful home visits.