Thirty-four-year-old Springfield resident Cordero Crenshaw’s desire to help others, particularly young people, without access to needed support and mental health services became in time his “passion and career.”

He began working in the field of human services seven years ago, and his most recent position is as program supervisor for MHA’s GRIT-Yale Street program. The program, housed in a renovated 16-bed Tudor-style house on nearly an acre of land in Holyoke, opened just over little more than a year-ago as a pioneering, state-fund initiative specializing in residential rehabilitation services for those 18 years or older who identify as LGBTQ+ and who have a co-occurring substance use disorder and a mild-to-severe mental health diagnosis.

Cordero has no problem sharing how proud he is of what residents and staff have accomplished during the program’s inaugural year and that success will stretch beyond the program’s walls.

“I get satisfaction in my work at GRIT-Yale Street in seeing the perseverance and patience of the residents through their recovery and in taking one step at a time, knowing it is progress over perfection,” Cordero said. “Here residents are able to understand not only a large part of their recovery as far as their mental health, but to understand as well who they are in terms of their gender and sexual identity.”

He said that the fact the staff during this time have been “able to create a safe place” in which residents are comfortable to explore who they are has “really been beneficial.”

“We, as staff members, are, at the end of the day, always trying to be supportive as passengers on their journey,” Cordero said. “The residents tell us that they appreciate the sense of community that we build, the places that we take them and the group sessions that we provide.”

He praised residents, too, for their community building.

“I have been able to see them come together and hold each other accountable and support each other with a sense of community has been great to watch develop,” Cordero said. “The residents display a sensibility as well in meeting with each other and others in the Greater Springfield and Pioneer Valley area.”

He has no doubt that the program that opened last April will have lasting benefits to its residents.

“The groups that we facilitate allow them to sit there and grab material – life skills – to help them continue in their recovery,” Cordero said. “These are things that will continue to be of benefit long after they leave here in recovery.”

Does Cordero have any regrets from switching his early career interests away from history and to social work?

“None,” he says.