I Know What Time It Is: It's Now
Home Sweet Home for Some
Home Sweet Home for Some

There are many hoops a newbie may have to jump over before getting dug into a job. Some hoops are visible, others aren’t. Today, Joy will learn an application that will make her “one of the boys”.

Joy consistently writes client interaction updates, appointment reminders, external referrals, and transit authorization forms by hand.  She has notes written on 8 x 11 lined paper for additional comments about the clients she serves.  Each client has a file.  Her file drawer is packed with folders of active clients.  She uses  a storage box for clients that have left the shelter.  Joy “got joy” from seeing that cardboard storage box full of folders of men either out of the DHS system or transferred to another facility.

This is some way for me to conduct business.  Just how many storage boxes will I fill up to keep up with my case load?” Joy isn’t a Case Manager but she’s definitely clocking the progress of each client with whom she interacts.

Every few weeks, she groups the folders by Case Manager to have short meetings with each one to learn the status of each case.  As she sits with each one, she jot notes and notices each person’s flair in delivering the information.  Some can report from the top of their heads; others like to go into OITS to read their progress notes.  One lady has a knack for insinuating Joy isn’t streetwise for her job.  Joy doesn’t bite the bait.  She has work to do.  Joy doesn’t like to reveal too much about herself.  The way Case Managers come and go–and the unknown reasons for the comings and goings–has her reluctant to “tell too much of her business”.  This is Joy’s rationale for her reclusiveness.  In truth, Joy doesn’t know how long she can keep her job.

The Case Managers use the OITS system to generate the ILPs and meeting appointments for them to see me at a workshop.  Flo uses OITS to input housing applications for them.  Owens has access to it because she schedules chest X-ray appointments.  I’m told there’s sensitive information in the system that I shouldn’t have access to.  Huh! I have to find out whether someone has been incarcerated so I can refer them to the best employment service.  If someone has a developmental disability I need to know to refer them to ACCES-VR.” 

Joy’s mind chatter is at 40 MPH. She knows it’s time to do something about the papers and the boxes.  She walks out her office and down the hall to see whether Ms. Juliet is there.  She’s looked at the tab for “OITS” every time she goes online.  She’s even clicked to see what will appear.  Without a password, she can’t open the system.

She opens the half door to the Social Services department and can see Ms. Juliet is seated at her desk.  Joy walks evenly down the aisle nodding and waving at the Case Managers in their cubicles.  She gets to Ms. Juliet’s polished wooden desk and asks for a moment of her time.

“Yes, Joy.  How are you?  What can I do for you?”


“Hi Ms. Juliet,  You know my files on the men and the workshops are growing.  So far, I have a box for the men who’ve left the shelter and a box for the workshop attendance sheets.  Then, my lower drawer is packed with folders for the active clients.  I really don’t have much more space for things.”

“Yes, it can get too much.  You seem to handle it well.  Your desk is organized.”

“Thanks but Ms. Juliet, what I want to know is can I get access to the OITS system and write notes in there?  I notice that some Case Managers open up OITS to give me the status of the clients .”

“The OITS system has sensitive information about the clients.  Not everyone ought to see it.”

“Isn’t there a way for me to be able to put in progress notes and the sensitive information be closed off to me.  Not only am I holding a lot of paper, I’m giving the Case Managers a lot of paper.”

“I see your point.  Let me see what I can do.  I’ll talk with Helen today.”

“Thank you so much.  Thanks for your time.  I won’t keep you from your work any further ma’am.”

Walking out of the big, airy room, Joy wonders how long she’ll wait before she knows the verdict on OITS.  A couple of hours later, she can hear,  from her side of the wall, Helen talking with Ms. Juliet .  Juliet has a low, calm voice.  She can clearly hear Helen say fragments such as “…the OITS System…”, “…set up an account…”, “…No, it won’t take long at all…”,  “…I’ll email…”

Joy are you at your desk,” asks Juliet.

“Yes, I’m here.”

“Please come over here now. Helen will set up an account for you on OITS.”

“I just need to send an email over to the OITS help desk,” chimes Helen.

“Once you have an account you’ll have access so that you can do progress notes within OITS.  Remember you won’t be able to get into certain sections.”

“Oh, you mean she’ll have the same kind of access that I had when I did the job?”

Dear Helen, the truth teller.  Helen looks so innocent as she says these words but she means to tip Joy off on this point.  Yes, Joy has been growing paper files when the work could have been in bits and bytes.  Joy sees this as keeping her ability in the shadows.  With OITS open to her, Joy does eight months of progress notes on about 40 men in two weeks.  It will take a few more weeks to have the rest electronically catalogued.  The Case Managers tell her that seeing her notes in OITS helps them decide the next steps for their cases.

Getting Your Own Keys chronicles the professional odyssey of Joy Duggins, a resourceful and encouraging service provider in a Central Brooklyn men’s homeless shelter.  It gives a peek into NYC homeless services procedures and much workplace drama.
What’s the goal of providing temporary emergency shelter?  Getting Your Own Keys

The opinions, content and/or information in this article are those of the author and are independent of BK Reader.

Akosua Albritton

Akosua is a communicator who loves to inform, engage, and enable her fellow New Yorkers. You may find her in a classroom, in an auditorium, or on a city street teaching the social sciences. Her favorite...

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