Unsung Heroes

Lani Saunder’s phone rings as she drives to Helen’s Place. It’s Emily, stranded with an empty gas tank, asking for help to make it to a crucial doctor’s appointment. Without hesitation, Lani assures her she’ll be there as quickly as possible.

Two hours later, Lani is at Helen’s Place for her weekly meeting with Tracy, a successful traveling nurse whose life took a sharp turn after a single misstep led to disability and homelessness. With Lani’s unwavering support, Tracy is working on a path forward, reclaiming her life one step at a time.

Later, Lani drives to the donation center to pick up a hospitality basket for a client who has been approved for housing. The basket contains 37 essentials, from cleaning supplies to bedclothes, all generously donated by the community to help the client have a fresh start.

Lani, along with Latasha Rilea, Alyssa Feipel, and Lucy Lincicome, is a housing case manager at The Sophia Way. They are the unsung heroes, working tirelessly behind the scenes and navigating life’s challenges with grace and compassion. For them, it’s more than just a job; it’s about uplifting and empowering women in need, from handling unexpected medical emergencies to urgent housing crises. Each day brings new challenges, yet amidst the chaos, there’s a profound sense of purpose—a commitment to listening, supporting, and nurturing the women in their care, laying a path to stability with care and compassion.

“I am passionate about equity and ensuring everyone has the resources necessary to thrive. It’s been inspiring to change the lives of the women we serve, and they have also changed my life,” says Lani.

The essence of their role lies in understanding each client’s needs and goals. From addressing barriers to housing to providing hands-on support at the Social Security office, case managers approach issues with empathy and determination.

Lucy shares, “Everyone deserves nourishment and a safe home. I love connecting clients to resources and helping them heal and thrive.”

Empowerment lies at the heart of the case manager-client relationship. Case managers foster a sense of autonomy by letting clients set their own goals and providing support every step of the way. The most transformative aspect of their work is in the relationships they build with clients.

“I feel a purpose in being a case manager, of empowering women to achieve their goals and potential. I have lived experience, so I know why striving to do my best for them is so important,” says Latasha.

Following the six guiding principles of trauma-informed care, case managers create a safe space where women can rest, heal, and grow. It’s about more than just offering solutions; it’s about walking alongside them on their journey towards stability.

But amidst the triumphs, there are also moments of profound vulnerability. In times of crisis, when emotions run high, case managers rely on de-escalation, approaching each situation calmly and compassionately. It’s not just about defusing tensions but also reaffirming the inherent dignity and worth of every woman they serve.

Being a case manager can be deeply rewarding. Every day, they find renewed purpose and determination to continue their mission of empowering women to reclaim their lives, rewrite their stories, and celebrating their strength and resilience.

My favorite part of being a case manager is seeing the positive impact we, and the shelter in general, make in clients’ lives. Getting housing for a client is extremely rewarding,” echoes Alyssa.