Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Success - spdated

I wanted to update you on a family whose story I shared several months ago.

Stephanie became homeless in 2008.

She was unemployed when she came to us from a homeless shelter, but she had been actively looking for a job. She found a position at childcare center and was rapidly promoted to Administrative Assistant and Spanish Curriculum Director.

Stephanie was able to negotiate down and retire $10,000 worth of debt to become debt free by the time she left Community LINC in December. She took advantage of a federally
funded IDA program through USBank that helped her save by providing matching
funds. Her IDA funds can be used to fund her education or homeownership.

While she was here, she got up every morning at 4:30 to study for the LSAT. She wants to become a lawyer and someday a judge. She just took the test.

She also has been accepted into Habitat for Humanity housing and is currently working with NACA, one of Community LINC’s partnering agencies, to finance her new home. Her goal is to raise her son in a home of their own.

Thank you for caring about what happens after someone becomes homeless.

- Laura Gray

Monday, February 15, 2010

Success is in the Eye of the Beholder

Senior Director of Programs and Operations Jeannine Short observes:

We have historically defined success by such factors as the number of life skills classes attended, the amount of money saved, the amount of debt retired, and the number of housing and economic barriers removed. While these are all good measurements of success, we are becoming increasingly convinced that success is really in the eye of the beholder.

Monique and her 3 children entered Community Linc in May 2009 after years of physical and emotional abuse and its resulting cycles of homelessness and instability. Unemployed and extremely unsure of who she was or what she wanted to do, she admittedly got off to a very slow and rocky start. However, after much encouragement and support from her coach, she was able to begin the daunting process of putting the pieces of her family’s life back together. She eventually obtained employment as a Concession Stand Supervisor and began saving money toward her future… for the first time in her life.

Although Monique hit some rough spots during her time at Community LINC and left the program prematurely, she considers her brief journey a success. In her exit interview, she expressed how thankful she was for all that she had gained—namely, her sense of value, self-worth and self-confidence. In addition, she learned the importance of setting goals, taking responsibility for her choices, and putting the needs of her children above her need for (costly) companionship--all of the ingredients for living a life of independence and self-sufficiency.

- Laura Gray

Monday, February 8, 2010

Leaving the Nest

Some observations from Senior Director of Programming and Operations Jeannine Short:

I remember studying in elementary school about the process that nestlings (particularly baby eagles) go through when preparing to leave the nest. Fledging, as it’s called, is the development of the feathers necessary for flight. More generally, however, it is the development of enough independence to leave the nest. Ask any baby eagle, and I’m sure he’d say that the first flight is absolutely terrifying. In fact, in some instances the mama eagle has to actually push the eaglet from the nest. But once the baby catches the prevailing wind, he’s able to soar to a life of independence.

The process isn’t much different for our residents—minus the feathers of course. For many of them, the structure and accountability provided through Community LINC’s Supportive Housing Program has given them the sense of safety and security that they have needed and perhaps secretly longed for. Consequently, when the time comes to leave the program there is often much trepidation.

Admittedly, it is not terribly unusual for a resident to sabotage their program by making choices that could very possibly result in an early and unfavorable exit. After all, being asked to leave and possibly failing is much more palatable for them than choosing to leave and possibly failing.

The converse is the resident who attempts to prolong their program by such methods as missing housing appointments. For this group, however, a gentle nudge is usually all it takes for them to flap their wings and fly. Like the baby eagle, they may initially stay close to the nest with frequent calls and visits to their former coach, but once they catch the prevailing wind they are off and soaring to a life of independence and self-sufficiency.

- Laura Gray

Monday, February 1, 2010

Community as Crime Fighter

Two officers from the Central Patrol Division of the KCMO Police Department visited last week to tell us about a service called Crime Free Multi Housing at

Although we’re in the urban core of the city, we have had very few incidents on our campus. The biggest things in the last 3 years were some kids broke a window and stole snacks, a former resident left a window open so that he could come back to sleep in his old apartment, and a yelling match in the parking lot.

We’re fortunate.

The biggest reason for that good fortune is that our families become a community while they are here (and even after they leave). In police terms, the community provides the natural surveillance that helps prevent crime.

They may have never known their neighbors anywhere else they lived, but here everybody knows everybody else and all the children. They attend classes together, their kids play together on the playground, and they babysit for each other. They begin to watch out for each other and for all of the children.

Friendships grow between our families and the volunteers who work with them. We have volunteer budgeters who still meet with the family they worked with years ago. One volunteer takes the child of a former resident when she takes her own kids to do something fun. Another volunteer took the son of a former resident to college.

It has become a community of people who look out for each other. It’s community in the best sense of the word.

- Laura Gray