Inspire: Christine McNeeley – Putting her life experience to work

By Alyssa Dearborn

Although Christine McNeeley has been the new executive director of the Chadwick Residence for only four months, she looks forward to furthering the Chadwick Residence’s mission of helping women move past homelessness to live successful lives. 

Before becoming the executive director of the Chadwick Residence, Christine was the executive director for the Humane Association of Central New York for over eight years. She has a background in healthcare and social services and she would eventually find herself wanting to return to her passion for human services. During the height of COVID, she re-evaluated her life and decided that she wanted to spend more time with her family and return to her roots in human services. 

I kind of really settled on that it was time to return to directing,” Christine said about her transition back into non-profit directing. “I really was interested in Chadwick and I was interested in their mission. And I was interested in the fact that previously I’ve been a single mother more than once. As a single parent, I worked my way through school and had some hiccups along the way. And I really felt like this was a great organization [where] not only could I lead with my skill set and my talent and my expertise, but also, I felt like I belonged here. I have a history similar to a lot of the ladies that we help here.” 

Having a similar background to some of the women receiving support has helped Christine better understand how to help the residents. 

We receive a variety of women from a variety of backgrounds and situations,” she said. “Everybody that does come into our program comes in homeless through one of the shelter programs or through one of the local domestic violence programs. And we are able to bring them into one of our two different programs.” 

Right now,” Christine continued, “we’re seeing a really big influx of women who are currently in a mental health crisis. It’s beyond, at this point, being diagnosed and treated. A lot of the ladies that we’re coming across have no service providers, they have no healthcare assistance, there’s no therapy happening, no medication. We’re recognizing that there’s a huge issue with mental health in our immediate area and it’s making it a lot harder for some of our women to be successful. That’s probably the biggest issue right now facing our community and what we’re getting so many people in.” 

The Chadwick Residence has two programs that address different needs. There’s a permanent support housing program where residents live independently offsite and receive assistance from a caseworker. And there’s an in-house program where residents live onsite and receive services and learn life skills. 

So we have the two programs.” Christine explained, “There’s the permanent support housing program and we have case managers that ensure that all of their needs are met so they can be successful…We would step in and assist with making sure that you’re getting your prescriptions filled, regularly following up with doctors, things like that. Making sure they have gainful employment so they can pay their utility bills. Things of that nature. Then the in-house program, it’s more of a single room and they would share a bathroom and a kitchen area. And they can live in this program up to two years. So that’s the program that we would assist them with life skills. And we do have single women that come and live, but we also do have moms and children as well.” 

Christine elaborated on the variety of life skills taught in the in-house program. “Cooking, cleaning, maintaining a household, learning how to pay bills. Making sure that we have transportation set up for getting back and forth to employment, or getting children back and forth to school,” she said. “And then we do help a lot with hands-on parenting skills. We end up with quite a few ladies that stay with us that are actually working on reuniting with their children. And we do assist with ensuring that they’re on the right path to make that happen.” 

When asked how individuals interested in the programs can get help from the Chadwick Residence, Christine emphasized that it’s important for them to follow through on the program’s requirements. 

So, they can always call and we can help direct them to where they need to go.”  She replied when asked what women seeking help should do, “But the way that people come into our program is directly through the shelter program. So to get a direct referral for our program, everyone must come from a shelter. Always reach out to us directly and we can give direction on how to best get into our program. Or they can call 211 and get referred that way. But once they’re here, it’s a great program. We just wish that we could get more ladies to follow through with the requirements to get here.” 

Christine is still at the beginning of her work with the Chadwick Residence, but she wants to prepare for the organization’s future with increased fundraising and more community engagement. 

We’d like to get out into the community more. But I did come from an organization where we had an operating budget of half a million dollars and every single dollar was individually fundraised. And [at Chadwick Residence], there’s very little fundraising. We need to get out into the community. I would like to start introducing us to corporations and things like that. We’ve been here for like 50-ish years and a lot of people don’t really know about us. And we really kind of want to get out there more so that we’ll not just be able to help more people, we’ll also benefit by people knowing about us.”   

If you are interested in finding work opportunities, collaborating, or sponsoring a resident as a “Holiday Angel” with the Chadwick Residence, Christine McNeeley would like to hear from you. You can email her at [email protected].