Renita Pagan’s workday begins with a census of the client population at Travelers Safe Haven, followed by an AWOL report if any of the fifty men and women who live there are missing.

If someone is unaccounted for, Renita canvasses hospitals and law enforcement facilities to find them.

For the Senior Case Manager at the Midtown-based Travelers, this is but one of many daily processes she oversees. Renita drafts service plans, meets with clients, documents their progress, advises fellow case managers on their client case load, connects clients with service providers, and runs workshops on health management, self-care, even therapeutic art.

If independent housing is the Promised Land for Urban Pathways clients—and it is—Renita and other Case Managers are guides along the various journeys which lead there. Happy stops along the way are common: reunions with estranged family, anger-management successes, and more. Still, the final destination – housing – is what truly motivates clients—and Renita.

But concern over client safety during the coronavirus pandemic trumps even that. “There are lots of new things to think about,” says Renita, who will receive a Master’s degree in Social Work in August. “We’ve modified mealtimes so fewer clients are eating together, and telehealth has been adopted for some services. We also have limited staff on site at any given time.” That, of course, is on top of the masks, shields, hand sanitizer, and zealous cleaning practices now standard throughout the organization.

At the peak of New York’s COVID crisis, Renita and a fellow case manager chose to keep coming to work.

“The trains were pretty crowded, and I was anxious about riding them to work,” admits Renita. “But I knew that to my clients, I was an essential worker.”

And that she was. Demand for emotional support has skyrocketed these past months, with one of Renita’s clients mourning for her mother, another distraught over his unemployment, and a third whose sobriety was faltering.

Now, with the worst of the crisis seemingly in New York’s rearview mirror, Renita’s attention is aimed at continuing to hone her craft as a Senior Case Manager. She has completed diversity and racial justice training courses virtually, hoping it would help her connect and better understand the current times and her clients. But whether it’s a social issue or a client that needs help, Renita’s morale is always the same.