Day In The Life: Kaitlyn Friess, Regional Director of Safe Return/Navigator
Meet Kaitlyn Friess, the Regional Director of Safe Return/Navigator for the Tri-County region, which encompasses Gloucester, Cumberland, and Salem Counties.
From a young age, Kaitlyn always knew she wanted to help people and started her career as a juvenile probation officer in Philadelphia. After 10 years acting as a “big sister, friend, whatever they needed”, Kaitlyn knew she was ready to try something different and help others in a new way. That was where her journey with VOADV began. When she heard about the Safe Return and Navigator programs and the services they provide – case management, housing assistance, substance abuse and mental health referral and linkage and more – it sounded exactly like what she was looking to do.
After starting out as a Program Coordinator in the Tri-County office, Kaitlyn quickly progressed to overseeing operations for the entire Tri-County area. She manages staff and makes sure they have everything they need to do their jobs comfortably and effectively, as well as develops new initiatives to help the people of Tri-County.
One of those new programs that Kaitlyn has brought to the Tri-County area is the warrant recall events. They started in Atlantic City years ago, and when Kaitlyn saw the need in her area, she and her team worked with representatives from the courts to hold them monthly, rotating between the three counties. The warrant recall events focus on recalling outstanding warrants for individuals who missed their court dates. The recently added expungement portion of the event clears client’s records and allows them to access jobs or housing that they may not have been able to before. The most recent event in Gloucester County had 55 attendees, showing the growing need for the program.
One of Kaitlyn's biggest personal projects has been Salem County, which she felt drawn to despite no personal connection to the area. She was saddened by the lack of resources and help for the county and has since worked hard to develop resources and programs for them.
As a result, another recent accomplishment from Kaitlyn and the Tri-County team is the diversion grant for Salem County – a $225,000 grant meant to help people in financial distress due to COVID or other reasons. The grant can help people with background checks, security deposits, first month's rent, and other expenses. The grant is able to help bring people in those situations financial stability.
Kaitlyn's favorite part of her job is helping people. She finds it rewarding to see clients who were in their darkest days turn their lives around and become happy and successful. One recent client story that stuck with her was a man that was an alcoholic for many years. After arrangements were made for him to go live with family, he was able to become sober and was doing great when Kaitlyn saw him recently.
Kaitlyn is a passionate advocate for the people she serves and works tirelessly to improve their lives. She is dedicated to ensuring her staff is safe and comfortable while overseeing programs that provide critical assistance to those in need. We are so proud to have her as part of the VOADV team, and her commitment to helping people is making a real difference in the Tri-County area.