When Paloma was almost two years old, she developed a high fever and her father, Enrique, took her to the local medical clinic. After determining the cause of the fever and getting it under control, the nurse practitioner spoke with Enrique. She learned that Enrique did not have a fixed or regular place to live, but his main concern was how to take care of Paloma during the day while he was looking for work. The nurse practitioner told Enrique about the local Juniper Early Head Start program, gave him a brochure that explained the services, and suggested he visit the program. Knowing that it is often difficult for men to get space in a shelter, the nurse called a shelter with which the clinic had an established relationship and arranged for him to stay for three months.
What groundwork do you think the Juniper Early Head Start program did to allow this referral to happen?
Kelly, a family advocate from Juniper Early Head Start who works with Enrique and his family, describes the connections the Head Start program made that resulted in this referral:
For several years, we have been developing connections with the local medical clinics. We have representatives of the clinics on our Head Start Health Services Advisory Committee as well as on our Safety Board and Policy Council. We are also fortunate to be invited to attend some of their board meetings so we can share some of the things our program does and give them an overview of our services. We have received several referrals from the clinics, such as Enrique and Paloma, of families in homeless situations.
We try to work with many community agencies and we find that the more we work with them, the better they understand what Head Start does and the more referrals we get. We have connections with several hotels who often call us with referrals of families who are experiencing homelessness. We really try hard to help the community know what we are about. We are very involved in community activities, such as the Cancer Walk and several preschool literacy projects so we become a familiar presence in the community. When there are community fairs or events, we usually have a recruiting table, which helps our name get out to the community. We take this very seriously. Last week, we got a call from a thrift store with a referral of a family with a young child that was experiencing homelessness.
Enrique’s Story: Explore Information
Use the links below to gather ideas for expanding your connections.
In Enrique's story, Juniper Early Head Start received Paloma as a referral because the program was well known in the community and had established relationships with many community organizations. Use Part 3 of the Connections worksheet [RTF, 247KB] to record organizations that you can contact and become involved with to raise awareness about Head Start services, for example, by being on their boards or advisory committees.
Locate your worksheet to add ideas for expanding your connections
As you complete Part 3 of the Connections worksheet, think about the following:
Did Enrique's story give you any ideas as to which traditional or nontraditional agencies and service providers may be good connections for your program?
Are there agencies or service providers that may have contact with families experiencing homelessness they could refer to Head Start? Which ones? How would you establish contact with them?
Are there agencies or service providers that you contact for collaborative activities in supporting families experiencing homelessness? Which ones? What impact do they have on families experiencing homelessness?
How can each agency or service provider support you in serving families in homeless situations?
On which councils and advisory committees of other organizations should your program be represented?