The colorful history of the human services agency is attached to a famous event in America’s history. There was a festival in 1969, and this festival was called “Woodstock.” The once quiet little town of Woodstock was becoming engulfed with young people sleeping on benches in the town’s well known “green.” People hitchhiking in and out of town, camping in parking lots and seeking out food and clothing. One member of the town, Gail Varsi realized that there was a problem. Ms. Varsi opened her home and her phone line to these people. The famous Family of Woodstock Hotline still has the same number that was Ms. Varsi’s home telephone number in 1969. Along with the help of local businesses, clergy, and residents, Ms. Varsi organized food drives, clothing exchanges and transportation back to where the young people came from. These are the roots of Family of Woodstock Inc. Today, the agency services all of Ulster County, organizing programs such as the only domestic violence shelter in the county, a teen runaway shelter, several homeless shelters, several walk-in centers(still providing a “free store” and a food pantry) and case management services for adults and adolescents.
Family of Woodstock was born when a community need was recognized and addressed; continuing in this line of thinking was the reasoning for the MidWay Program. Many young people, although adults at the age of 18, were unable to live independently and did not have the skills necessary to maintain a manageable life style. Young people who were not technically “runaways,” but were homeless due to many circumstances; some were victims of domestic violence, sexual assault in their homes, some had parents who were unable to provide for them due to financial restraints, substance abuse issues, incarceration, and some just did not have anywhere to go. Many fell through the cracks, before the early 90’s when divorce became common place, opening the door for the new concept of the “blended family” and many of these kids became unwanted as younger children. These kids were the basis for MidWay. The Kingston House was the site for the original MidWay.
Family of Woodstock Inc. owns the house where the program stands in a small residential neighborhood, close to the center of the small city. The Ellenville site exists in the small, rural village of Ellenville, also in a quiet neighborhood. They are site homes to 6 adolescents, ranging from 16-20. The program is co-ed, and manages three parenting teens in each program. The length of stay in the program is 18 months, or up to 24 months if the client enters the program at age 16 in order to allow them to complete high school while in the program. There are staff members in the program 24 hours a day. The case managers are there from 9 to 5 and are available for consultation, transportation, assistance with appointments and referrals. Life Skill Managers are there from 4:30 to 9:30, for assistance with imperative daily living skills, like budgeting, laundry, grocery shopping, and other skills such as communication and relationship building.
The overnight shift starts at 9:00pm and ends in the morning. There is only one staff member on at a time, which they are referred to as a “cross –over,” where the staff leaving the program provide the staff coming on the shift with a summary of events that took place on the previous shift. Clients accepted into the program are referred to local service providers for mental health and substance abuse counseling. The clients program serves as high need and may not be able to live independently. The residents sign and receive a contract upon entry of the program. Their status is tracked and discussed in a bi-weekly case conference with all of the program staff, program director, and mental health consultant to communicate the events of the program from the previous week.
If a resident is doing poorly, he/she schedules a meeting with the program director to decide whether or not he/she will remain in the program. The residents are expected to maintain their house; they have evening chores, checked nightly by the two residential counselors of the program. They are responsible for the condition of their rooms. They are assisted in grocery shopping, but cook their own meals, often together because of the “home-like” environment the program strives to create.
The residents also create schedules, crafted for every individual with his/her specific needs in mind with the help of the case manager. Schedules are developed to occupy forty hours a week of residents time; that contains work, school (sometimes college, high school, or GED course)substance abuse and mental health treatment, or any combination of these. In Conclusion, the programs are run with the assumption that the staff and the program are performing the roles that parents would take in a healthy family atmosphere. The program as an opportunity for the residents to experience a healthy and supportive family environment.