As part of the newSTART team, Joseph Holliday helps participants in CASES’ largest alternative-to-incarceration program to secure stable housing. This year, newSTART will provide services to more than 1,000 people who would otherwise face short jail sentences for misdemeanor convictions. More than 60% of these participants are homeless when they enter the program.
While many homeless participants may face additional challenges—including untreated mental illness and/or addiction—Joe believes that housing “answers so many issues for our clients.”
“Being housed allows participants to get back some of the pride that they lost in the shelter system,” he says. “Participants think, ‘I can start feeling good about myself again, and I can start making things happen.’”
Joe started at CASES as an intern before joining the newSTART team full-time as a Peer Specialist. As a Peer Specialist and now as a Housing Specialist, Joe is able to connect with clients through shared experience.
“Say you’re in Paris on vacation,” Joe explains, “and everyone around you is getting along but you can’t relate because you don’t know French. And then you hear a voice, and it sounds like they’re from Texas. Automatically you’re going to say, ‘Where are you from, are you from the States? I’m from the States too!’ That’s what peers bring to this work. A participant can say, ‘I’m not from here, I’m from that world,’ and I can say, ‘Hey, I’m from that world too!’”
Peer advocates bring a critical voice and perspective to programs like newSTART. To Joe, the role feels natural.
“I’ve always been an advocate,” he says. “I’m always trying to help people be their best. I just didn’t always realize that was what I was doing.”
Want to learn more? Please visit the newSTART home page or read about the Howie the Harp Peer Training Center, which has awarded several CASES staff its Excellence Award for supporting the professional integration and success of Peer Advocates.