From turmoil to stability

Dee’s day starts shortly after sunrise in a small office she shares with a colleague.

She pores over neatly kept notes to help organize days that are rarely predictable. As part of the Permanent Supportive Housing team, Dee shepherds families through turmoil.

A U.S. Air Force veteran, Dee helps the most vulnerable families find a path to stability. Most have histories of substance abuse, complex medical diagnoses, domestic violence, and trauma.

For many, Dee is a welcome respite in a storm she hopes to permanently quell.

On a recent morning, Dee set out in her Jeep for a home visit with Corinne, a longer-term client who’s made great strides. The worst behind her, check-ins are now nuts-and-bolts in nature.

“You good with your rent? Utility bills on track?” Dee asks. “Yeah we’re doing well,” Corinne answers while her oldest daughter cooks breakfast.

Since a bumpy bus ride to Western Massachusetts eight years ago, Corinne has battled custody hearings, substance use, and chronic poverty.

CHD helped Corinne find affordable housing and connect her to the community. Her four children are now thriving. She has a car and a steady job.

Their rapport is comfortable and familiar. Dee asks about each family member as if they are her own. She praises Corinne’s son for making “student of the month” at his grade school.

Next is Saithe, who has a newborn and is embroiled in chaos. Not long ago, she was in a shelter with her 2-year-old daughter, and pregnant.

“She’s really bright and has a lot of charisma,” Dee says. “She’s been through some serious abuse, has some schooling under her belt, and is really resilient.”

Dee urges Saithe to resist the lure of chaos and embrace that potential. For now, at least, she’s safe.

Hours later, Dee visits our homeless shelter in Holyoke to meet with caseworker Marissa Torres. A family is moving from shelter to a placement in Puerto Rico. There are complicated travel plans to make, loose ends to tie up, and medical needs to manage. The process starts now.

With a caseload of 15 families, Dee is often tapped with “troubled” cases on an emergency basis. To that end, the day winds down with a call to meet a mom who has no place to go with her young children. She climbs into her Jeep, without a trace of frustration.

“These ladies are not exhausting to me. They’re overcoming great odds. They inspire me,” she says.

Diana "Dee" Canales - Case Manager, Homelessness & Housing Services, Springfield