Shelly Murphy, Case Management Director who has worked at Opportunity House for 17 years explained, “I think its in my blood, I’ve always liked to help people and never liked bullying.” Shelly regularly spends time with her clients after work drinking coffee on the porch and we joined them recently to learn more about their stories and their connection to Opportunity House. Charles is a veteran who grew up in Brooklyn, New York. “I liked being in the Marines because you get to meet people from all over.” Some tough circumstances led Charles to become homeless and before coming to Opportunity House he took shelter in a laundromat for five months to keep warm. He was pleasantly surprised when he got to Opportunity House. Not only did he find permanent housing, he “got kindness, people care for you, you even get to go to school if you want. The staff is behind you 100%, they push you to do what you are supposed to be doing.” Shelly described Charles’ new home, “everybody in permanent housing is kind of like a family, so it has to be a perfect fit and we place people carefully.”
Gertrude, worked at a candy company for 23 years and then got laid off with little notice and little savings. “I ran out of rent and didn’t have anywhere to go. I came to Opportunity House and Sherry took me to apply for my social security card so I could have something to live on. I don’t think anyone recognizes how hard case managers work. They take people to fill out important paperwork, to doctors appointments, to get our hair done. Everyone here is nice.” After many months of living in the shelter Gertrude was able to get her own place where she can have a cat and enjoys going to Berks Encore to play bingo. She shared that, “if I see anybody who needs a place to stay I take them to Opportunity House. The staff are there for you”.
Alan, age 25 and the youngster of the bunch, lived at several shelters before coming to Opportunity House. “Shelly helped me find a job and get sneakers and clothes.” Alan’s job is at the DoubleTree hotel in Reading where he works 40 hours a week putting together sets of utensils and other tasks for meal preparation. He proudly shared that he got his very first paycheck from his job there and now has money for important things like talking to his family in Puerto Rico. He also shared that he feels stable and comfortable living at Opportunity house and is grateful to Shelly who he said, “is a good person and a great example”.
When asked how Shelly does this rewarding but challenging work of transforming lives without burning out, she said this,
“Not only do clients become family , but so does the Case management team who are on the front lines with the clients working and caring for them. We work hard. Our Supervisor, Delia Mclendon who hired me and is still my mentor pushes our team beyond limits to help us be successful and I could never do what I do without our team of Case managers , Orlando Long, Sherry Abraham and Al Wright who are my family and the hardest working team I know , for that I am grateful!”