At COTS, we are always looking for innovative ways to better serve and support our clients, not just in finding housing, but in maintaining it. That’s why starting this Spring, we are excited to add a new mental health offering for Integrity Housing clients, in partnership with Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Karyn Duffy.

Thanks to the support of two very generous supporters, Karyn will be able to provide three 50-minute therapy sessions a week to clients living in Integrity Housing, at absolutely no cost to our clients.

Currently, Integrity Housing serves about 60 clients in 11 houses. In order to serve the most people, Karyn will be using a short-term solution-oriented strategy, working with each client for a maximum of twelve weeks. “There are just too many people in that program to only provide three people with ongoing services,” Karyn says. “We’re going to check in on a regular basis, chart out accomplishable goals, and then show a positive outcome. To me, twelve weeks feels very doable.”

A unique challenge Integrity Housing poses is shared living. Each house has a mix of individuals and families living in it, having been referred from a mix of COTS’ emergency shelters and other partner organizations. They have never met prior to living together, and they typically move in without seeing the house first. “We do the best we can to make appropriate referrals for these houses,” says Jules Pelican, Director of Programs, “but residents do not have the ability to choose who they are going to live with.”

Add to this that many COTS clients have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which contribute to mental health challenges, and can make living communally more difficult. “This is one of a hundred reasons that therapy is important to our clients,” says Debbie Robbins, who oversees the Integrity Housing program.

Karyn is a long-time COTS partner, which makes her the perfect person for this new partnership. “This will be my tenth year,” she says. Originally an intern through Petaluma People Services Center, over the years Karyn has offered support to both COTS clients and staff, performing in-home visits, facilitating support groups, and offering private therapy sessions. “She’s done a lot for us,” says Jules. “She works in both of our Permanent Supportive Housing programs, she offers sliding scale sessions for folks who used to be COTS clients so that they can keep seeing her – some people have seen her for years.”

Part of the beauty of Karyn’s long-standing partnership with COTS, says Debbie, “is that because she knows COTS so well, when our clients go to her, or staff for that matter, they don’t have to waste a session or two explaining about COTS culture, and that’s a time saver for everybody.”

“Jules always said I know how to be with people,” says Karyn. “I actually am really humbled by my work with COTS. When you look at the tenacity of people and their sense of survival, and their will power, it just blows me away. They’re surviving, they’re strong, and they want to be better. Broken people are not just to be discarded; they need compassion and respect and understanding.”

With this new offering, Karyn will be able to help even more people. “If we had good county mental health services to serve our folks,” says Jules, “we wouldn’t have to go out and pay for our own therapist. But because we don’t have adequate mental health supports in the county, this has been a beautiful workaround.” Adds Debbie: “To have these funders realize the importance of having somebody available for our clients to discuss any issues…it’s a game changer for some of our folks. This is huge.”

Your support is what allows us to keep valuable offerings like this as we continue to explore new ways to support those whom we serve. Thank you for investing in COTS and our community!