Patty Alonso's Ed O'Neil AwardWorking with homeless individuals can be difficult work. There are many obstacles to getting them housed that must be overcome: lack of identification and references; difficulty staying in contact and completing paperwork; and sometimes physical and mental health issues.

But in the more than two years she has worked at Housing Assistance, Outreach Specialist Patty Alonso has long understood that the rewards far outweigh any challenges she may face. “It is amazing to watch someone transform when they get into housing,” she said. “Some initially struggle with the transformation from living outside and now being able to shower every day and taking care of themselves when they haven’t been able to for so long.”

Last year, Alonso estimates that she and her colleagues on the Homeless Outreach team (Ann Marie Peters, Timothy Regan, Alicia Moore and Shannon Tracy) have been able to move 80 homeless individuals off the streets and into permanent housing.

Alonso recalled one client who was living behind a supermarket for years. “We were finally able to get him housed on the Upper Cape and he’s doing very well,” Alonso said. “He still calls and checks in. He’s very grateful. He cooks more turkeys than anyone I know. He’s eating healthier, looks healthier, and emotionally has gained a lot more stability. It is nice to see clients transform and then open up and be receptive to therapy and going to doctor’s appointments, things we’d never be able to accomplish with them living outside.”

While supporting the homeless during the pandemic has been more important than ever, it has come with its own host of complications. None of that has deterred Alonso from her mission to keep her clients safe and get them housed.

In December, she was recognized for her efforts by the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance with the Ed O’Neil Award which honors a distinguished direct care worker whose work has demonstrated a strong commitment to ending homelessness. O’Neil was a longtime advocate for homeless individuals, writing about his work, “to eliminate homelessness, one individual at a time, is the goal.”

Vice President of Programs and Client Services Cassi Danzl said Alonso is well-deserving of the recognition. “She is dedicated and resilient and one of the hardest working people I’ve ever worked with, in terms of her commitment to the clients,” she said. “She has a unique blend of encyclopedic information in her head about what resources are available to clients, but she also has a great personality which allows her to work with high-risk individuals in a highly impactful way.”