Romi Avin’s coordinating wizardry is something to behold.

As Director of Social Services at The Residence at Hallet’s Cove in Queens, her duties run a wide gamut from implementing service plans to linking clients to providers and ensuring they meet weekly with Case Managers.

An administrative job, no doubt, but Romi makes it personal as well. “I’m often in touch with clients long after move-outs,” she says. One texted her recently to let her know that he was doing well. Which turned out to be a massive understatement. “This client has been sober for three years now,” Romi proudly shares. “He’s renewed his lease, graduated cum laude from a degree program, and has had work published in the Harvard Business Review.”

Considering that clients often relapse post-transition, that’s a real triumph.

But with coronavirus, the path to those triumphs has gotten longer and more winding. Men and women who live with mental illness are often very regimented, and adjusting to 2020’s “new normal” was, for them, no easy feat. “We tried to help clients understand what was happening worldwide, and why that meant they couldn’t just go grab a cup of coffee,” Romi says.

Although social services continued apace, the methods were new and cumbersome. “Supportive counseling went virtual for a while, but it just wasn’t as impactful,” explains Romi.

“Even now that in-person sessions have resumed, clients and case managers sit on opposite ends of rooms wearing masks. There’s a lack of intimacy — and clients really feel it.”

We regularly update our clients on the city’s reopening phases. In the meantime, they are most grateful for the “abundance of food” provided by Urban Pathways . For a time, “Director Romi” became “Chef Romi” as she found herself preparing meals for residents and staff every Wednesday.

Then again, Romi is a woman on a mission. “Watching clients reach their potential, tear down stigmas about mental illness and substance abuse — it’s really motivating,” she says. “I only wish more people could talk with our residents and learn not to judge these folks by their exteriors.”