Thursday, August 18, 2016

Strong Parents Help Build Stable Children

Submitted by Griselda Williams, Manager Mental Wellness Services

Recently, several coworkers and I met to discuss our annual report for the Children’s Trust Fund (CTF), Missouri’s Foundation for Child Abuse Prevention. The grant funds mental wellness services at Community LINC, for children and youth ages 6-17. Mental wellness services are provided by a Child Therapist to include individual therapy, socialization, coping group therapy and often sibling group therapy.  As we were discussing interventions for children and youth our conversation naturally moved toward mental wellness supports provided to the parents. Some of the topics shared with Community LINC parents to support stable families and safety of children include:
  • Protective Factors for Strengthening Families (taken from training offered via the Children’s Trust Fund).
    •  Concrete support for parents in times of need
    • Parent Resilience
    • Social Connections
    • Social and Emotional Competence
    • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
  • Parents as Role Model (Open discussion from the, Children See, Children Do video).
  • Why Does My Child Act Like That? (We discussed the four archetypes for child misbehavior).
  • How Well Do You Know Your Child? (Parents were given a handout with questions about their child’s favorite color, video game, best friend, etc. Parents met with their children to discuss their responses.
  • Child Development for children birth to 5 with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and Social, emotional and cognitive development of children ages 6-17.
  • How to Help Your Child after a Traumatic Event (such as homelessness).

When parents have information and feel supported there is less risk for child abuse and neglect. These “protective factors” help families succeed and increase their resiliency during stressful times; like when they are experiencing homelessness. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Win, Win

By Tylynn Washington, Immediate Housing Case Manager

Community LINC’s Landlord Locator builds a strong inventory of available housing options for Community LINC’s families.  Major responsibilities include housing location and fostering working relationships with landlords.  Working closely with the Housing Specialist, we develop and implement strategies for retaining these housing options and communicate landlord’s issues, concerns, and conflicts to staff and families, to ensure a family can secure and retain permanent housing.

What is Rapid Re-housing?
  • Rapid re-housing serves individuals and families experiencing homelessness who need time-limited assistance in order to get and keep housing.
  •  It reduces the length of time people experience homelessness, minimizes the impact of homelessness on their lives, and facilitates their access to resources in the community.
  • Rapid re-housing programs often use a relatively light-touch approach to financial assistance and supportive services, seeking to provide just enough assistance to help families get back into housing, while being available to offer additional support or connections to other resources and programs if more help is needed.

  Even so, data indicate that 90 percent of households served by Rapid Re-housing are successfully housed and do not return to shelter. This approach allows communities to assist more households with the same resources.

Working With Landlords in Rapid Re-housing

How do landlords think?
Rental housing is a dollars and cents business.  Landlords and management companies are in the business of reducing risk and maximizing return on investments.  Rapid Re-housing providers need to adopt a business-oriented or market-driven approach to recruiting and engaging property owners and management companies.  In many ways, I am “selling a product” in the open market.  I have to convince property owners that our “product” will meet their needs and address their concerns.

Marketing the program
Marketing is one of the best tools to use in developing a pool of landlords and management companies who are willing to rent directly to our families. Another good tool is giving the landlord a list of commitments that will inspire them to partner with Community LINC as we work to make our mission a reality. Like…..
  • Rental Assistance
  • Rental Conflict Advocacy
  • Quarterly Housing Partner Luncheons (people love to eat J)

 Keeping landlords happy
At the end of the day, one of my main concerns as a Landlord Locator is to maintain good relationships. Keeping the lines of communication open by following up with property owners and agents, keeping our commitments, putting what I was taught as a Realtor to use and operating with integrity and honesty is what I try to do for each landlord.

These partnerships pay off for the landlords and for our families. Landlords have the confidence in their leases with Community LINC families, and our families have housing options they otherwise would not. If you or someone you know might be interested in becoming a landlord partner with Community LINC, contact me at or 816.389.8252.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Children's Matters: Love Louder

By Children Program Manager, Joshua Chittum

A mother and daughter participating in our Interim Housing Program recently attended the Love Louder conference at UMKC. Their attendance to the conference was made possible by a donor who covered the registration fee. Also, thank you to Love Louder organizers who gave us a discount. The following is a Q&A with Mom about their weekend experience.  

1. What is Love Louder? 
It is a two day conference for girls between 5-14 that encourages participants to love themselves and increase their self-worth.  

2. What was your favorite part? 
I enjoyed how the conference facilitators were so open and friendly to the parents and children. They gave so many helpful tips on loving ourselves. 

3. What did your daughter like about the conference? 
My daughter loved dancing and singing with the others girls and instructors. She learned to give love to herself every day. Since we attended, she has started jumping up and down in front of the mirror each day saying, "I love me!"  

4. Anything else you would like to mention? 
The mothers, aunts, and grandmothers got to go to groups for adults during the conference. It was refreshing to share information about our kids and their self-worth. My daughter and I are going to go again when it comes back next May.  
If you are aware of conferences, camps, and enrichment activities that will benefit children at Community LINC, please reach out to me!  - Joshua Chittum *

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Learning How to Handle Conflict Pays Off

By Constance Taylor, Program Manager and Employment Job Coach

Community LINC’s goal is always to see our families back on their feet, secure in housing and gainfully employed. I was so impressed each time I saw Kim with her four children. She would have her twins in a stroller and the two older children walking alongside them. I wanted to jump in and help but for fear of complicating things I would just stand back and watch her make it happen. I finally realized she had her own system that worked.

Kim seemed so young to have so many children to care for alone. Because of her past evictions, her only option is a landlord willing to give her a chance to prove she will pay rent and maintain his property in good condition. She has been employed for two months now and makes a livable wage. She recently secured another part-time job working weekends. 

She has eliminated several warrants and reported to court several times concerning a domestic disturbance that existed before she came to Community LINC. She has not only expressed her desire to react to conflict differently but we have witnessed her ability to work through some challenging situations. She vows to work, manage her home and take care of her children. The progress she has already made while managing four children on her own shows her dedication. She is looking for this second chance for housing now and is ready to move forward. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Art as a Tool for Healing

By Griselda Williams, Manager Mental Wellness Services

For many years, art has been used as a tool to promote healing with various groups of people. Art is used with persons with Alzheimer’s’ disease and other health issues. There are art programs in the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems. Art has been used in therapy with persons challenged with mental health diagnoses and persons with disabilities. Art is used in other regions of the United States, as well as the world by organizations positively impacting persons traumatized by earthquakes, war, floods, tornadoes and other traumatic events.

According to Gretchen Miller, Registered Board Certified Art Therapist, “Art expression is a powerful way to safely contain and create separation from the terrifying experience of trauma without the necessity of or reliance on verbal language to share ones story”. This creative tool “can become a visual voice that can help retrieve content from lower-functioning parts of the brain where traumatic experiences live without words and can transform into drawings on paper, molded into clay, painted onto a canvas and more”. Art experiences “safely gives voice to and makes a survivor’s experience of emotions, thoughts and memories visible when words are insufficient.”

I recently attended the Housing First Partners conference in Los Angeles, California, where persons who had experienced homelessness used art as a tool for healing. Homelessness is considered a traumatic event so it would stand to reason that art would benefit persons with this experience. Men and women that participated in the Skid Row Homeless Support Program in downtown Los Angeles made art items to sell and earn income at the Housing First Partners conference. People who lived homeless experiences were at the conference, share the use of art, poetry and music to tell their stories and some had published their work. These individuals shared their publications and work and how participating in art therapy helped them heal and increase their self-esteem and self-worth. Others shared how being able to make art helped them feel there was something they did well, something they had control over and something that was theirs alone that no one could take from them. One man shared that using poetry to express how he felt inside was a positive way of getting all of the negative and fearful feelings out in a harmless way versus in an angry or self-destructive way.

As part of our program group meetings at Community LINC, I often offer artful experiences with our program participants. Recently, I offered old keys, a painted canvas and other items for a collage. The collage title for each participant was to be called, “The Key To My……”   Each participant was asked to fill the blank canvas with pictures, words and symbols reflecting on the title. When the women’s group members finished their collages they shared hopes, dreams, goals, regrets and lessons learned through their collages. They were able to imagine a new life and depict this in their collages which in turn helped them to identify their goals and therefore steps needed to reach the goals.

We often use ‘art as a tool for healing’ experiences in our program groups often. Each time, I hear our residents say how helpful the experience was for increasing their awareness and insight, as well as how it helped them connect to their hopes and dreams. Pictures of some of the finished collages were posted on our Facebook because the group members felt proud of what they produced and they wanted to share them with others. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Fresh Start

By Holly Gardner, Intake Specialist

I’m always amazed at the many community supports intertwined with the day-to-day business we do at Community LINC and how we strive to fill the voids the best we can while we serve our families.  This winter I was privileged to meet Michelle at Giving the Basics and coordinate services so we could have onsite, personal care items for our families.  This includes shampoo, body wash, feminine necessities and many other products. While speaking with Michelle it was hard to imagine living without these items. Her enthusiasm was contagious as she spoke of the void families often experienced while homeless and how her agency was determined to fill that void by partnering with social service agencies like ours.  Yes, families have access to food pantries and there are agencies that provide clothing but it could be hit and miss when it comes to providing basic self-care needs. This could be stressful and embarrassing for people to even ask for such items.

There is a lot of work to do in a rapid re-housing program. Employment is a priority and many of the day-to-day tasks our families have on their plate require meeting new people and trying to make the best impressions they can.  We call it building relationships, building bridges back to self-sufficiency – a very important aspect of our program.  Sometimes our families struggle with self- care as it has been off their priority list as they are busy trying to survive the day-to-day.  At Community LINC we encourage our families to put some focus back on self-care and encourage them to look and feel their best on their journey. What a beautiful way to offer dignity and respect in a very tangible way by connecting a person with “the basics” again.

On the Giving the Basics brochure a striking picture of a man’s profile sitting in a chair wearing soiled clothing, you can obviously tell he makes a living with his hands. The caption says, “I can’t get a job because I’m dirty.”  Beneath that reads, “Did you know food stamps don’t cover the basics, like shampoo or laundry soap? Please donate generously-everyone deserves a fresh start.”

To better assist our families we have an area set up in our donation basement, designated just for this so parents can look over the items and pick what they would like to have. The positivity I see and feel is sometimes overwhelming and I have to wonder if a person feels better stepping out their door to take care of business with a little less worry they may just land that next job, build new relationships, secure housing for their children.  We thank our partnering agencies for helping us provide the basics, including these very simple yet profoundly life affirming dignity items. And yes it takes all these small things to make a fresh start. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

For the Sake of the Twins

By Employment Job Coach Constance Taylor

 Several months had gone by and I could see the disappointment in Briana’s face each time she entered the computer lab. She had gone to interview after interview expecting a door to open and yet, still no job. I didn’t want her to lose hope and so I decided to send her to a training class with an internship attached. She was excited at the opportunity. Briana attended the orientation and learned that a company she had applied to work for was having a hiring fair in the same building in the next few days. She did some networking, scheduled an interview at the same job fair, and was hired a few days later. Although it was not the opportunity she was expecting to follow, Briana was thrilled about the quick turnaround.  

Briana is not unaccustomed to unexpected change.  She told me what it was like to have two children born at the same time. One boy and one girl. This meant she had to budget to buy two of everything. On top of that, one child was quite ill growing up, so Briana had seen some difficult days. Her mom passed away two short years ago from cancer and today her children’s dad is suffering from the same disease. She has had to fight to move forward for the sake of the twins on many occasions. 

It is always impressive when parents strive for the sake of their children. Kids really do make the world go around. Now that the twins are older, Briana looks for the best. She has started her new position and is searching for housing. Her life has become different for the sake of the twins.