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Welcome to the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities Services

Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services


Guide to Providing Values-Based Support

Phase 1 starts the moment a new member walks in the door, and it lasts about 3 days.

When a new member first joins us, our goals are to ensure the person feels safe, welcomed, and valued. A welcoming environment shows regard for the person and helps create an environment in which the person feels it’s safe to heal. In this phase, we also want to orient new members to the program and to the facility, and to complete the paperwork needed to begin treatment.

Creating a warm and welcoming environment is not just the job of intake staff or clinicians. Connecting with someone and helping them feel that they belong is less about what you do than how you do it. Every staff member regardless of their role, can facilitate healing by warmly interacting with new members in the first minutes, hours, and days of their stay.

Why is Phase 1 important?

Phase 1 Goals:

1. Warmly welcome new members

JOH programs can be hectic, and it can be a challenge to take the time needed to greet new members properly and help them feel at home. But it’s crucial to do so. A warm welcome is the first impression a new member will have of the JOH Project and of your program. How you welcome someone will shape their expectations and set the tone for your work together. No matter what you do to welcome a person into your program, it’s essential that your actions are genuine, kind, and unhurried.


Goal 1 strategies:
  • Ensure there is a place for new members to sit when they arrive.


  • Create a pleasant common area. For example, keep common areas clean and tidy, and make signs that welcome new residents by name.


  • Upon their arrival, offer the new member a beverage and a meal.


  • Ensure that the new member’s room is clean and that their bed is made for them upon their arrival.


  • Give the person a gift such as a basket with hygiene items, new clothing, towels, blankets, or decorative items.


  • Introduce the new member to a buddy or a peer specialist, who will help them learn about the program and adjust to the community.


  • Offer them a chance to shower.


  • Offer a tour of the facility.


  • Introduce the new person to current residents and staff. 


  • Ensure all staff (regardless of their role) understand the importance of helping members feel welcomed.


  • Genuinely communicate your excitement about their arrival. It needn’t be elaborate; simply looking a new member in the eyes and smiling can be a powerful way to welcome them in.

2. Help new members feel safe

New members come to the JOH community with—at minimum—the trauma of chronic homelessness. To engage in the collaborative work of recovery and wellness, members have to feel safe emotionally and physically. You can facilitate a feeling of safety through heartfelt conversation as well as by ensuring members know and understand the rules and systems in place to protect everyone’s safety.


Goal 2 strategies:
  • Let new members know that it’s normal to feel anxious, uncertain, and insecure when entering a residential treatment program. 


  • Acknowledge how difficult it can be to transition into a new setting. 


  • Let members know what they should do and whom they should talk to if they feel unsafe. 


  • Use trauma-informed approaches when searching the member’s items. For example, explain which items would be considered unsafe, such as weapons, lighters, and so on, and allow the person to show you their belongings rather than initiating a search.


  • Ask members what would help them to feel safe (such as sleeping with the lights on). Document their responses in their chart and ensure that all team members are aware of them. Then work as a team with the person to incorporate their requests to the degree possible. 


  • Give members a key to their rooms and ensure that they understand who has access to their room and the reasons staff may enter. Let them know if they will have roommates, and, if so, how many. 


  • Tell members about the systems and practices in place to protect their safety.


  • Teach all staff about trauma so they understand how toxic stress and trauma may affect behavior.


  • Train staff on principles of healing-centered engagement and the importance of the community in the healing process.


  • Ensure that staff know how to minimize saying or doing anything that might re-traumatize members or trigger symptoms of preexisting trauma.


  • Train staff to identify situations in which members may need to be referred for stabilization or trauma-specific treatment.


  • Teach staff grounding exercises and other methods to help individuals stabilize.


  • Support staff in exercising and modeling healthy self-care and appropriate boundaries in their interactions with the people they serve.

3. Address immediate needs

Someone just coming into JOH will likely have a variety of urgent needs. They may be hungry or in need of clean clothes, for example, or they may need prescriptions refilled. Although you and other JOH staff will observe some needs and anticipate others, it’s important to ask the person what is most important to them to address in the moment. Doing so allows you to get information you may not have expected. It also engages the member in a partnership, putting the principle of person-directed care into action and modeling expectations for their JOH experience. Encouraging the member to tell you what they need and then addressing it also helps build trust, which will be an essential foundation for your work together in phases that follow.


Goal 3 strategies:
  • Ask the member about what is important to them to address during the first few days, such as obtaining medication, informing loved ones of their location, or washing clothes.


  • Keep a clothing closet for members that is orderly and contains clean clothes.


  • Ask about medication needs and any other time-sensitive medical needs and take needed steps to address them. 


  • Give new members a list of options for what they could do in their first few days in the program, such as rest or meet other residents, and ask them to outline their preferred schedule.


  • Let new residents know what must be done within a limited time-frame, such as completing paperwork, and ask them when they’d like to do it.

4. Orient new members to the program

Help new members learn about the nature of the JOH Project and about your program and environment. They may have heard about the JOH Project before arriving and could have absorbed some myths as well as some facts about the program. It’s particularly important to set expectations in Phase 1 by highlighting the long-term nature of JOH services. Let new members know that the JOH Project has both a residential and a continuing care component, which keeps members connected to services after they have accepted a housing match.

Ask the member what they would like to know about the program. Some members may want to meet the staff and residents right away, whereas others may prefer to have a list of rights, expectations, and responsibilities. Others may need to know the physical layout of your program to feel comfortable. Give the person the information they need to feel oriented and to remove the risk of surprise later on.

Goal 4 strategies:
  • Ask the member what they know or believe about the JOH Project as a starting point for your discussion.


  • Provide staff’s names, pictures, and roles.


  • Connect the member to their peer support staff and case manager as soon as possible.


  • Share the menu of services offered in your program as well as services offered by community partners.


  • Walk new members through the daily program schedule.


  • Share a welcome packet that explains the JOH program.


  • Talk the person through a list of rights and responsibilities. 


  • Emphasize that they will be members of the JOH Project and will receive services even after they have moved from your residential treatment program into their own housing.

5. Complete time-sensitive documentation

New members will need to complete treatment consent and authorizations in the first 24 hours of their stay. Talk with the new member about what the forms mean, let them know early on that these papers will need to be filled out within 24 hours, give them options for when they could complete the forms, and ask about what support they would like to complete the forms.

Goal 5 strategies:
  • Ask a person when they would feel most alert and ready to fill out paperwork within the required time frame.


  • Ask new members if they would like peer staff or others to help them fill out the paperwork.


  • Allow the person to fill out paperwork in more than one sitting.

Phase 1 Resources:

How to use the JOH Welcome sheet
JOH Housing and Services Process

Learn more about the JOH Housing and Services process.

Topics covered include: Admission, Housing Assessment, Case Management and CSS Referals.

Self-Care Strategies for You and Your Team

Published 2020

Program Manager: Deanna.Lear@phila.gov

Project Assistant: Tina.Newstead@phila.gov