Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness with the Housing Stability Project

In a weekly skill-building class at Bailey-Boushay House, outpatient program clients are quietly finishing a journal entry. Group leaders Angela Brock, occupational therapist, and Billy Burton, clinical case manager, assure the group that sharing their writing is strictly optional: the real purpose is to help them manage feelings jumbled by transition.

Each client in the group has reached milestones in Bailey-Boushay’s Housing Stability Project. With support from the program, some are now in housing, and others are nearly there. Reading from loose journal pages, Antonio recounts a difficult moving day and facing the fortress of boxes in his new apartment. It’s this class, he says, that got him out of the house and talking about unpacking.

Annual Report - BBH

Angela Brock, occupational therapist, guides a group session.

Another client, Robert, says his entries are too personal to share aloud but he’s amazed by the relief writing brings. Next, Jeffrey reads from his last entry: “I have an apartment in my immediate future.” Words on a page have power, Angela tells the group, and she pledges to get everyone new notebooks by the next class.

About half of Bailey-Boushay’s outpatient program clients are homeless, many struggling with a history of substance abuse and mental health problems, while managing daily treatment for HIV. In 2016, outpatient program efforts to broaden support for both homeless and newly housed clients included:

Extended hours. Bailey-Boushay moved its opening time up 90 minutes to 6:30 a.m., accommodating clients displaced by shelters closing at 6 a.m. Executive Director Brian Knowles says not only are clients glad to get out of the cold and rain, but they have more time to shower, do their laundry and get services like therapeutic foot care. Because foot health is crucial for overall well-being, new socks are provided daily.

An onsite food bank. Often items available at regular food banks require cooking facilities or refrigeration, leading to waste. Because many client medications must be taken with food, hunger is not the only danger when food supplies and money are gone at month’s end.

A monthly food bank offered at Bailey-Boushay is designed around the wants and needs of clients. Single servings mean no spoilage; cans with pop-tops are in, as are foods known to taste OK cold. The onsite food bank eliminates another problem linked to food insecurity: chronic anxiety. No lines, no empty shelves, no being rushed to shop and enough choices to help clients feel empowered.

More life skills classes. The Housing Stability Project maintains a class lineup to meet clients where they are, with weekly drop-in groups for self-care, stress management, conflict resolution and relationship skills. Clients who excel are invited to join the Phase Two class (the journaling session above is an example), bringing together the same group each week to build relationships as they work toward setting longer term goals for a future taking shape.

Glenda, a client in the Phase Two class and an avid journal writer, told the group about making new choices and what it means when her doctors say she’s doing well. “It’s lifted my self-esteem,” says Glenda. “I’ve climbed the ladder of recovery for three years and I like what I see. I have more to do, but I know I can do it.”

A version of this story originally appeared in the Virginia Mason Health System’s 2016 Annual Report. Bailey-Boushay House, a skilled nursing and day health facility serving people living with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening conditions, is owned and operated by Virginia Mason. 


  1. Beverly Hagar says:

    You guys are amazing, thank you so much for all that you do for this population!!!!

  2. Connie Lantagne says:

    Bailey Boushay House, in my mind, is the crown jewel of Virginia Mason. Thank you for being the caring face of VM.

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