Monday, December 22, 2014

Programs Matter: A Christmas Story for 2014

By Family Coach  Frenchie Pulluaim

Jason is a single dad raising his three year old son.  They had been homeless about 4 months, living in a hotel, when they applied for our program.  Jason and his son were one of five families adopted for Christmas by Dan Wilkinson and his staff at Datamax this year.

Upon delivering gifts Dan and his staff found that Jason and his son did not have a Christmas tree. After they delivered all of the gifts for the other families, Mr. Wilkinson called to let me know that they were shopping for a tree and ornaments as a surprise for Jason’s son.  Jason was in the job lab when the tree came. He said it was the most beautiful thing that had happened for his family in a long time.

We are very thankful to Mr. Wilkerson. This is not the first Christmas that Mr. Wilkerson has adopted families here at Community LINC, but it was surely one of the most special.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Children Matter: The Effect of Collaboration

By Children’s Program Coordinator Josh Chittum

As a teacher I often worked in close collaboration with my school’s counselors. In fact, I would not have survived without them! I was quite fortunate to have worked with many highly skilled individuals as we addressed the social and emotional needs of my students, which helped improve their academic performance.

It’s not surprising that in my role as Children’s Program Coordinator, a close relationship has been forged with the counselors in our Mental Health Department as well. In fact, I would not survive without them!

The mental health services provided by Community LINC has positively impacted many of the children and teens we work with. A perfect example is how we recently worked together to meet the needs of a young resident I’ll call Nora.

With an effervescent and infectious personality, Nora was tremendously fun to be around. As an effective self-advocate and a spectacular conversationalist, she often showed up early to program and stayed until program staff were turning out the lights and locking the door behind them. It didn’t take much time around Nora, though, to pick up on the fact that she had internalized some negative perceptions of herself.

We knew that she was doing the absolute best she could in her situation, but even with her level of resiliency, it sometimes was a challenge for her to manage her emotions, particularly her anger. In fact, one time after tutoring, in a fit of rage directed towards me, she closed her fist, pulled her arm back and was ready to sock me in the nose if I didn’t comply with her demands.

In her eyes, past the anger, I couldn’t help but see her struggle and pain. I was not at risk for suffering any real harm due to her size, but she was in danger of doing this to the wrong person – a bigger kid, a teacher at school, even a friend. Repercussions from that would certainly add more hurdles to her path, which was already riddled with far too many.

Nora also struggled to maintain consistent relationships with her peers, loving them one day, and doing something cruel to them the next. This often left her feeling isolated and lonely, which only exacerbated the difficulties in regulating her emotions. Additionally, in an effort to seek attention, positive or negative, Nora would sometimes write inappropriate words on surfaces around campus. But most troubling was when a resident reported seeing Nora engage in a type of behavior that is often the sign of past or current mistreatment in a child’s life.

I visited with Nora’s Mother about some of these issues, and for her part, she was not quite sure what to do. But I let her know that we were here to provide support and offer referrals if interested. After bringing my supervisor into the loop and working with the Mental Health Department who successfully got Nora to open up and talk about things happening in her life, it was decided that she would continue to work with her counselor in the home after her family exited for permanent housing, which they did in fact successfully do a few weeks ago.

            This continuation of mental health services into the home seems like such a small decision when I put it in writing. But it’s something that can have a profound and lasting influence on Nora’s life. It would not have happened without our amazing counseling staff, our awesome leadership, and the solid collaborative relationship we have with one another.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Programs Matter: Coming Full Circle

By Family Coach Frenchie Pulluaim

It is always a Blessing to see our residents come full circle.  It’s a huge thrill when they see the value in giving as well as receiving.

Ms. M, a single mother of 5, has done just that.  She suggested that her co-workers adopt a Community LINC family for this Christmas season.  She told them how she and her family were homeless last year with no transportation or employment.  

The group took off like wild fire. They adopted a mom and 4 children and the came down with armloads of gifts to meet and greet the family. 

What a Christmas Story!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jobs Matter: "Giving Back at Christmastime"

By Employment Job Coach Constance Taylor

It was exciting to be approached to partner with an employer who is a past participant, now the Operations Manager for a local parts company.

I remember the day he came to the computer lab for assistance with his resume. His family had just moved into permanent housing. Shortly after they moved from our campus, he lost his job. He was discouraged and concerned about what might happen next. We created a resume and he applied for an entry level position with the parts company. Within one week, he contacted my office and told me that he had an interview scheduled. The next time we spoke, he advised me that he did get the job.

In less than 2 years, he has become the Operations Manager for that same company.

He came to Community LINC to give back to our agency and offer work that will make someone’s dream a reality. His desire is to bless someone who has a less than favorable background history with a job that will allow their family to move forward and reach their life goals. He understands that even people who have made bad decisions, but have decided to move forward, need support and another chance.

What an awesome gift to give someone during this Christmas season. The gift to work, make a livable income and become self-sufficient.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mental Health Matters: Why Recognizing Your Strengths Matters

By Director of Mental Health Services Griselda Williams

Why does recognizing your strengths matter? Because when you recognize your ‘good stuff’ you can build on it.

It seems that as humans we tend to recognize the ‘bad stuff’ in ourselves and in others and say that we are being boastful or bragging, if we speak about our strengths.

I have seen this happen, especially with female clients that I have worked with over the years in human services. There is a young woman-Miss Q, in residence at Community LINC who was like that when she first came with her family. However, over the course the two months that she has been here, she has begun to recognize her strengths and now feels that it is appropriate to speak about them. 

When she first came she would only do what others told her and did not feel it was appropriate to make her own choices. When she came to program group, she would sit at the end of the table by herself and would not speak. She often looked down and would not make much eye contact and she appeared sad and lost.

Much has happened in Miss Q’s life this year, most of it taxing and traumatizing. However, as Miss Q flexes her strengths muscles she is sharing a renewed sense of empowerment. She has begun setting boundaries with partner, family members and even an abusive boss.

In program group last night the topic was “strengths” and attendees were to identify 5 of their strengths and make a collage of pictures that represented those strengths. Miss Q sat in the first chair, she smiled with her head high and she freely shared her strengths as she made a collage. In addition Miss Q helped a fellow group member identify her 5 strengths when the member shared that it would be bragging to say them out loud.

Now that Miss Q recognizes her strengths and is not embarrassed or feels guilty about speaking them, I believe there is no limit to what she may accomplish. It is exciting to see what will come next for Miss Q, now that her strengths muscles are so strong.

Monday, November 24, 2014

An underappreciated partner in the struggle against homelessness

By CEO/Executive Director Laura Gray

Most of what you read about poverty and homelessness doesn’t focus on thankfulness. Because there are still homeless people, everything that has been done is often dismissed as “not enough”. But, since it’s Thanksgiving, I wanted to feel thankful. I was looking for an inspirational idea when I re-read a letter prepared for Senator Blunt encouraging support for McKinney-Vento funding.

We’re just one organization serving homeless families, but Community LINC ended homelessness for 76% of the families (236 people, 154 of whom were children) served in the first 10 months of 2014. If the past is any predictor of the future, 80% will not become homeless again. The cumulative impact of the “hand up” we gave is a $4 million increase in taxable income and $1 million less in public assistance for the families served over just the last seven years.

We could not have provided the “hand up” that ended homelessness for these parents and their children without funding from McKinney-Vento.

Also because of McKinney-Vento funding, we expanded our capacity to serve more families. Using the business model HUD promotes to rapidly re-house homeless families, over the last two years we have more than doubled the number of people who exit homelessness as a result of our program.

I’m grateful to all of the legislators on both sides of the aisle who have voted for funding to help end homelessness. And, I’m hopeful that they will continue to fund efforts to put an end to this insidious problem.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mental Health Matters: "The Male Perspective"

By Director of Mental Health Services Griselda Williams

During a recent conversation with David Simpson, Mental Wellness Team Counselor, he shared an awareness that male residents at Community LINC, as well as those within the community, seem to disappear and are not as involved in support programs as women. David shared that many programs are organized to support female clients, i.e. WIC, other programs for single mothers or women with children but that few share as great a support of males or fathers. We have seen a few fathers at Community LINC with primary custody of their children or those who have come to the program without a female partner. David attempted to engage those men and provide them with support. I observed one male who would only talk with David in an individual session or in the parking lot, but would not attend program group which was predominately female.

David stated one time that he asked a male resident, “Why do you disappear from getting involved?” and the male resident shared, “People don’t notice”.

David shared other comments by male clients, like:

"I’m invisible. I can easily disappear into the background and shadows."

"My absence is not noticed; as a matter of fact sometimes it’s discouraged and expected that I will be absent."

"Sometimes I get involved with things, sometimes I don’t."

"It really doesn’t matter because people don’t notice."

"I don’t feel rejected or neglected. It’s just that no one expects me to always be involved."

"Now don’t get me wrong, I have circumstances that are hard for me to handle. Many times I just don’t know what to do, so it’s easy to become invisible."

"Sometimes, I will take care of my responsibilities and step up to the plate. Many times I have been really involved."

"I guess what I’m saying is if you don’t expect things of me, I will do them at my leisure."

As David shared this conversation with me, it made me realize that men don't engage in the same way as our female residents. I appreciated David sharing the male perspective with me.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Intake Matters: Screening

By Intake and Resident Specialist Holly Gardner

I love what I do at Community LINC, I have varied responsibilities and a nice balance between interacting with people and helping to take care of our lovely old buildings here on Troost. One of my primary functions is to screen / interview new families and work with staff to determine acceptance into our program or referrals to other programs that may serve that family better. 

It is interesting to me to see the families face to face and listen to their words as they describe the different issues that have contributed to their current situation and what has led them to our door.  Of course there are commonalities such as lack of sufficient income or loss of all income, unreliable childcare or none at all. Untreated health issues or treated health issues flaring up.  Loss of significant relationships including death and divorce.  For many families violence.  There are education deficiencies too and changes of plans as families survive day to day.  Many times a combination of all these things may be in one application to sort through and discuss.  All too often our screenings are weighed down with these challenges, but what also comes through in our conversations are how individuals reacted and responded to their hardships.  How and when they took initiative to ask for help, who they turned to in the community and the paths they are on now due to that strength and courage to reach out and where their journey may take them now.

I see that strength a lot in the faces of our prospective families, the ones we accept in and get to know better and the ones that will have a different journey.  There is a grace in loss, I see that and have experienced it many times too.  We lose, we have set backs, we have heart ache and we rebuild one relationship at a time, one step at a time.  It is such an honor to work for an organization that sees these strengths in homeless families, the most vulnerable populations in our community, vests with them and in so doing provides a sturdy stone or two on their housing journey’s path.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Programs Matter: "Do not hide your light for fear of what others may think of you. Let it shine and be a reflection of what is possible."

By Family Coach Frenchie Pulluaim

I am currently working with a family that is struggling to accept that they are living in a homeless community.  They lost their housing due to company downsizing and income that went from a working salary to unemployment checks.  They did not change their lifestyle, although their income changed. They felt finding employment would be fast and they would be back on their feet. 

Well, finding employment did not come easy, or fast. 

The couple quickly began to fall behind on bills, which caused to them to max out credit cards, family and friends. Some families do not make it through these type of struggles. 
This family found themselves in a situation that was life changing. The time came to stop worrying about what people would think and accept that they were broke and in need of services to survive this crisis.

The family now  looks at their problems and lives through different eyes. They are budgeting and becoming accountable for managing their money, while realizing this is what you do whether you have a lot of money, or very little.

They are learning that Pride comes before the fall, that there is nothing wrong with admitting that your plans are not working out. It is even OK to allow someone to assist you in problem solving. 

Community LINC provided the wraparound services that this family needed to get back on track and feel good about themselves. 

Most working, independent families do not see programs as something they can use or need because they have been successful. They feel ashamed and fear what people may say about them. 

Community LINC serves families from all walks of life, our mission is to assist families to be successful and move forward with their lives.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Program Matters: Catch 22

By Senior Director of Programs and Operations Jeannine Short

Ensuing from HUD’s overarching objective to eradicate homelessness is the goal of permanently housing those most vulnerable to becoming homeless. This often means housing (or attempting to house) persons with significant mental health and/or substance abuse issues.  While the effort is certainly noble, it seems that the issues that plague this population have become the “elephant in the room”.

Despite the best efforts of HUD-funded agencies to meet HUD’s expectations, the reality is that there will be failures that can negatively impact funding.

The mandate to serve only the most vulnerable population (which implies significant if not insurmountable challenges), and HUD’s expectation to consistently meet or exceed outcomes is in every way a catch 22.

Does an agency perhaps  “cream”  in an effort to meet these expectations? Or, does an agency truly embrace the “most vulnerable” objective and risk the loss of funding?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mental Health Matters: Resiliency

By Director of Mental Health Services Griselda Williams

Resiliency--Webster’s dictionary lists the definition for resiliency as “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens” and “the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.” 

I have been reading a social work book; Resiliency: An Integrated Approach to Practice, Policy and Research, Edited by Roberta R. Greene—boring title I know,  but very informative and supportive of those in the midst of difficult times and their ability to persevere. In this book there are several definitions discussed about what resiliency really means. One of the definitions stated, “Resilience usually is used to describe individuals who adapt to extraordinary circumstances, achieving positive and unexpected outcomes in the face of adversity.” 

The big difference that I see between Webster’s definition and those discussed in this book, people who have studied the human experience, is the recognition that resiliency is defined by how one manages during adversity versus Webster’s definition that focuses on how one bounces back after adversity. 

Not long ago, I came in contact with a person that clearly was able to “adapt to extraordinary circumstances, achieving positive and unexpected outcomes in the face of adversity” as that individual was homeless and living in a car with family members. As this individual shared efforts to adapt their living situation so their family members would be able to have a shower, have a hot meal, do homework and be able to run and play, like other’ families who have a stable place to live, I was moved tremendously. I thought if this individual can do this in the face of so much adversity what would they be able to do should they have a stable place to live for themselves and their family members. 

This individual’s story reminded me of the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, a 2006 American biographical drama film based on Chris Gardner's nearly one-year struggle with homelessness. Chris Gardner and his young son, being homeless, were forced at one point to stay in a restroom at a subway station and they had to carry all of their possessions in cast off shopping bags. Yet, Mr. Gardner kept his son in school, kept him fed, showed him love and was able to secure employment. 
Sometime later, Chris Gardner went on to form his own multi-million dollar brokerage firm. 

During an interview with Mr. Gardner and his son, Christopher on the Oprah Winfrey show, Christopher (then in his 30’s) shared that he was not aware that he and his father were homeless. He shared being aware that he and his father moved around a lot, but he had no idea they would have been identified as “homeless”.  

This is another great example of resiliency, like the individual I met some time ago. That individual and their family have recently became residents at Community LINC. I think we have another Chris Gardner in our midst.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Volunteers Matter: Children with so much potential

By Volunteer Coordinator Lonny Cohen

On a recent Children’s Programming night, I watched our toddler-aged children as they played, created and interacted with other children. These kids were having such a great time doing what they do best at that age - being kids.
Then, something not only brought tears to my eyes, but made me realize the importance of what we’re doing for our families. One three-year old finished drawing her special picture which, she proudly told all, was a present for her mother. She looked at the picture of one of the boys sitting next to her and said, “Good job” and with an upward hand motion said, “high five.”  His smile, because of the compliment, could not have gotten any bigger.

These children are the future of tomorrow and we’re so fortunate to be a small part of how she and our other residents tiny lives are shaped.  While this young three-year-old obviously had some great training at home, on a daily basis, children at Community LINC are being taught life lessons like the basics of giving a compliment and making someone else feel good. This and the many other life-lessons they are taught will be so important in their lives for years to come. 

From the talented and caring staff at Community LINC to our volunteers, and from our monetary to our in-kind supporters, we all have a part in touching this three-year-old’s life and the many other children in the community. How lucky are we….how lucky are they!!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jobs Matter: A Family Reconnects

By Job Readiness Coach Constance Taylor
Ms. K was very excited about becoming a participant and it didn’t take long for her to get a job. She entered our program around the middle of September and three weeks later, she found a job at an area hotel.
I believe her greatest motivation was reconnecting with her son. There is not much that a loving mother won’t do for her children; however, life’s challenges can get to the best parents and they are sometimes unable to perform and provide properly for their children. In this case, other family members stepped in and fulfilled that role, but didn’t take her place. Their help let her son stay in school and extra curriculum activities, including working a part time job.
To see the beam in her eye as she approached my office with the good news that she found a job was extremely rewarding.  Although, her income is shy of being one of a livable wage, I believe it is a good start and they are well on their way to self-sufficiency and a healthy lifestyle together.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Intake Matters: In like a force of nature, out like a force of nature

By Intake & Resident specialist Holly Gardner

It is an honor to participate in screening a family, accept them in to the program and watch them get their plans firmed up and take care of their business while they are here.  Ms C was one of those you just get a good feeling about.  She had unwavering eye contact and advocated for herself and her baby son in such a refreshing way.  Her spirit was good and she had energy, all great things to bring to the program and share with staff.

This young lady worked on her barriers, obtained employment (and better employment) followed up with her housing plans and obtained housing while she was here.  She made and kept her appointments with staff and kept everyone informed of important changes.  At no point did I see negativity or doubt creep in.  She was determined to utilize this program to better her situation and she did just that.

For being a petite lady she has a way of  bursting in the door when she comes to our office like a great big, busy woman.  After her appointments she bursts out as well, often times its her little son closing the door behind them.  She is a beautiful, determined young lady and I know I speak for the rest of program staff when I say, this young lady came in and went out like a force of nature, she showed (herself) she can open doors and surely with the confidence she has gained more will be opened to her. While she was here, blessing us and working the program it was a privilege to give her a little wind beneath her wings.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Aftercare Matters: Rebuilding after the storm

By Aftercare Case Manager Johnae Sawyer

Working with families in our Aftercare program has truly been a humbling experience. The stories heard from families about how they became homeless are eye opening. Many families hit that one bump in the road and are unable to stabilize their finances. Unfortunately they end up in a homeless shelter with their children, feeling as if they have hit rock bottom.

The program offered here at Community LINC helps families bounce back and feel as if they have a support system that cares about their journey to become self-sufficient. The smiles that replace the tears are heart-warming and encouraging. The families that transition from our campus into their own homes and our Aftercare program feel a safety net that they would not have if traveling this journey alone. They are excited that Community LINC is now a part of their support system.

Several Aftercare participants are striving to use the tools and skills learned while in the program here at Community LINC. They know that if they continue to work hard, budget, and build a savings, they will weather their next financial storm should one arise.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More to fuel the minimum wage debate

An Associated Press article published on Fox News website on July 19, 2014 titled “Job growth picks up in states that raised minimum wage” brought some interesting data to consider when debating increases in the minimum wage. I’ve included excerpts below, but you can read the whole article at
advertisementMaybe a higher minimum wage isn't so bad for job growth after all.
“The 13 U.S. states that raised their minimum wages at the beginning of this year are adding jobs at a faster pace than those that did not, providing some counter-intuitive fuel to the debate over what impact a higher minimum has on hiring trends.

Many business groups argue that raising the minimum wage discourages job growth by increasing the cost of hiring. A Congressional Budget Office report earlier this year lent some support for that view. It found that a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, as President Obama supports, could cost 500,000 jobs nationwide.

But the state-by-state hiring data, released Friday by the Labor Department, provides ammunition to those who disagree. Economists who support a higher minimum say the figures are encouraging, though they acknowledge they don't establish a cause and effect. There are many possible reasons hiring might accelerate in a particular state.

"It raises serious questions about the claims that a raise in the minimum wage is a jobs disaster," said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research. The job data "isn't definitive," he added, but is "probably a reasonable first cut at what's going on."
Some economists argue that six months of data isn't enough to draw conclusions.

"It's too early to tell," said Stan Veuger, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "These states are very different along all kinds of dimensions."

For example, the number of jobs in North Dakota — which didn't raise the minimum wage and has prospered because of a boom in oil and gas drilling — rose 2.8 percent since the start of this year, the most of any state.

But job growth in the aging industrial state of Ohio was just 0.7 percent after its minimum rose to $7.95 from $7.85. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.

Veuger, one of the 500 economists who signed a letter in March opposed to an increase in the federal minimum, said the higher wages should over time cause employers to hire fewer workers. They may also replace them with new technologies.

The Congressional Budget Office cited those factors in its February report. But in addition to job losses, the CBO also said a higher minimum could boost paychecks for another 16.5 million workers.

Sylvia Allegretto, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, said that research comparing counties in states that raised their minimums with neighboring counties in states that did not has found no negative impact on employment.

Restaurants and other low-wage employers may have other ways of offsetting the cost of higher wages, aside from cutting back on hiring, she said. Higher pay can reduce staff turnover and save on hiring and training costs.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Intake Matters: Open Mind

By Intake and Resident Specialist Holly Gardner

I love the freshness of moving in a new family, especially the ones you can tell right off the bat are going to work with the staff here in good ways and meet their goals, or at least the majority of them.  I love the enthusiasm and appreciation that they share with me when they get my call letting them know we have a space for them and what their move in day will be.  This is a glow I carry around for hours, sometimes days and helps to remind me to keep an open mind with each new family.  That is the least I can give them.

There are families that seem to run for weeks on that energy.  Yes, they have their setbacks, ups and downs, but they get back on the horse and get their stride.  How do I know these families will have the energy it takes, the right attitude to make it successfully through the program and in to their own housing?  I don’t know, and I can get surprised, but one thing they seem to share in common are manners.  These are the families that tell me thank you, usually over and over again and want to know how to thank others like our apartment prep ladies.  They monitor their kids closely in the lobby and remind them of their manners. They smile more and make eye contact.  They ask me how my day is going. 
Yes, I love move in days and all the potential it brings, like the autumn air there is change, there is potential for growth.  All I have to do is keep an open mind and cheer them on because the families that are going to hit the ground running and make the most out of this program deserve that much from me.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Housing Matters: Keeping Families Together

By Housing Placement Specialist Tammy Mayhue

Families who face homelessness run the risk of their families being separated. I personally am grateful for our Interim and Immediate housing programs, because without them many people would fall through the cracks for the very same reasons that caused them to lose their housing in the first place.

Our Interim and Immediate housing stabilize vulnerable families, so they have safe and healthy environments for their children. Families now have a temporary place to call home, as well as the services and support they need to stay together.  Our programs are helping our families stay together.

Though the families we serve are unaware of the behind the scenes work we do to make sure their lives are changed for the better, I do it because it is a privilege working with families who are in need. Even though there are times we may get on our soap box, we still have their best interest at heart. If you listen closely, you will hear us saying how much we want them to succeed and break the cycle of homelessness. We believe they can take control of their lives and provide their children with stable housing.

Without a doubt, working with families who come from all walks of life with many barriers can be challenging, but to see families stay together and leave together into permanent housing, makes the challenge worthwhile. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Programs Matter: Walking against the Wind

By Interim Case Manager Frenchie Pulluaim, MSW

Walking against the wind must be how some of our families feel as they struggle to recognize the negative behaviors that are hindering them. Most of our families want to create positive change in their lives, but when it requires money it is virtually impossible. 

For example, many of our families have arrest records for driving unregistered vehicles, traffic tickets, expired identification , or child support arrears.  These may seem easy to fix, but imagine trying to do so while earning $7.30 hour with 3 children and living expenses.  Another example is the lasting impact of years-old minor drug charges—some as minor as possession of a single marijuana cigarette—that resulted in a felony. Although the charges occurred when the person, now in  his 50’s, was much younger, this one mistake can affect the family for the rest of their lives.

We all make mistakes every now and then, but having resiliency, support, and access to resources make it easier for these families to walk against the wind.  It is then that they can imagine and work toward a life of stability for themselves and their families.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Volunteers Matter: Giving Children a Time to be Kids

By Volunteer Coordinator Lonnie Cohen

Each Tuesday and Thursday night, I watch mothers and fathers bring their children to Children’s Programming where the kids get a chance to spend time interacting with both adults and other kids and taking advantage of the opportunity to “just be kids.”  While many of them face issues at home, coming to programming for these children is a special treat where they either learned new information or a new skill.
In recent months, we’ve been fortunate to add a group of new volunteers to a special group of long-time volunteers in our children’s programing area. With a passion for children, the ability to listen to them and knowing how to let kids be kids are new volunteers Britnee Moore, Myra Jenkins, Sainy Hussan, Alex Sells, Jason Fulp  and Kelvin Walls.  They join long-time children’s program volunteers Stephanie and Gerald Ostapko, Kathy Jarvin, Carolyn Kusman and Tina and Keith McHudson. Our heartfelt appreciation goes to these volunteers who give several hours each week out of these busy schedules to not just do the work, but make our program work while letting the kids in the community have the opportunity to be kids.
A huge thank-you goes to the Children’s Programming volunteers along with the many other Community LINC volunteers for their time, passion and commitment to our mission of ending homelessness, impact poverty and remove the barriers that our families face in achieving self-sufficiency. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jobs Matter: Employment is Essential

By Employment Job Coach Constance Taylor

Employment is essential for our participants and is an immediate conversation that we have with our participants upon entering our program.  Many individuals have a scattered work history and years of sustaining just above water.

Assessments and conversations say the opposite of what many people believe about themselves.  Our job becomes pretty difficult because it may require having to convince them that they are valuable and capable of so much more than what they are experiencing.  An old proverb, believed to have been recorded as early as 1175, says,  “you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.”  The proverb is true you can’t make the horse drink, but I believe that if the horse is in heat exhaustion long enough and you keep leading it in the right direction, you can only hope that one day it will drink the cool water and be restored.

So it is with the families we serve.  We realize many of them have experienced a trail of homelessness and are pretty hopeless by the time they cross our paths.  Some want to hear the words, “ yes, you are hired” after only a few applications have been submitted.  I know that is not a reality, so I keep encouraging them to work harder and put in more applications because one day it is going to pay off.

The difficult thing is that for many job searchers,  just like the horse that needs the water to be refreshed, but  will not drink it, many of our participants need  income to survive, but will not complete the process necessary until the last hour.  We can only show them the steps and hope and pray that one day, they will extend themselves beyond where they are currently operating until they get the call and hear the words, “yes, you are hired.” 

Although, we have a large percentage of participants that do leave with employment, there is also that small percentage that leaves unemployed.  Often times, after a few months of having left Community LINC, I get a phone call and the person on the end says, “guess what Ms. Connie, I got a job”  I am always so happy to hear that they are employed and able to care for their family sufficiently, without having to search for resources from multiple agencies.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Children Matter: Building a Base Camp

By Children’s Program Coordinator Josh Chittum

As I’ve entered the phase of life where I begin thinking about having my own children, I spend considerable time reflecting upon the goalposts I will use to measure my success as a parent. A primary aspiration is for my child to live the kind of life he or she wants to live with as little restraint as possible. This has caused me to wonder how much restraint and resistance Community LINC youth will face through the rest of their growing up years after they leave our program. Will they enjoy as friction free a journey as I hope for my offspring? In all likelihood they will not.

Instead, a more likely scenario is that Community LINC children and youth will face a perilous journey, akin to climbing a mountain, as they attempt to reach the summit of their dreams. In the process they will struggle against unrelenting winds that will howl in their ears and tell them to turn around and stop trying. Their growing hands will shake as they hold ropes and ladders. And familial troubles will weigh down their packs so much that they may abandon their tents in order to lighten their load and place faith in a God or some other power to shield them from avalanche and sub-zero chill.

It would be fantastic if society whittled down the height of the mountain. It would be fantastic if the climb’s technical difficulties were not largely determined by zip code, race, and/or class. But the reality is the hill is too steep and complaining about it while doing nothing will never get anyone up the mountain side.

Instead of being overwhelmed by the looming mass of rock before our youth, what can we do?

We’re already doing it to some extent. We’ve essentially built a base camp for our children and youth. It’s a little city of tents for respite, for care, and for the teaching of necessary skills. But I want our base camp to become the best base camp a climber could ever want or need. I want our base camp to help lighten the load of our young one’s packs so they never have to abandon their tent. I want our base camp to give them the skills to steady their hands and give the confidence to silence the negativity of the wind.

I cannot make this dream tent city by myself. That’s why I’m looking for help. I am seeking teachers, social workers, mental health experts and anyone else with applicable insight and passion to join a planning group to determine what academic, social, and life skills we can teach our children and youth before they continue their travels. Once the canvass is fully painted, we will begin the work of turning the vision into something tangible. And who knows, maybe the base camp is just the beginning of something even bigger and something with even more impact. But let's build the base camp first and then go from there.

We already have some fantastic Community LINC staff and volunteers who have agreed to be part of this planning group. If you love to think big and love to plan I would be appreciative if you considered joining us. You may contact me anytime to let me know that you’re interested or to ask me question. My number 816-531-6725 and my e-mail is I hope to hear from you.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Surprising Take on Wealth Inequality

By CEO/Executive Director Laura Gray

In July I went to the Kansas conference on poverty. For the most part, the point of view was what you would expect – most of the presentations were about poverty from a social justice point of view. The pleasant surprise was at least one session that was realistic about winning an argument when it’s purely about social justice. To quote Nick Hanauer from “The Pitchforks are Coming…for Us Plutocrats” the July issue of Politico, “Republicans say growth. Democrats say fairness – and lose every time.”

Hanauer’s article and much of the conference was about wealth inequality in America.
There is a marvelous illustration of the changes in the distribution of wealth in a YouTube video at

What’s just as interesting to me is a talk given by Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute called “America’s Future in Focus: A Conservative Vision for Social Justice.” I’ve excerpted several sections below. I’m not doing it justice, because I left out so much. Hopefully, what I am sharing is the common ground of social justice.

“I want to talk about Two Americas. I want to tell you, first, the poor are being left behind.”…

“Now, I said that the poor in America are being left behind and that’s just a fact. If you look at the data, it’s actually one of the most striking things about the non-recovery in the bottom half of the economy. Economists like me like to tell you that in 2014, we’re going to see a slow but steady increase in GDP, about 2.5 percent growth. Now, that’s true as far as it goes.”

“The problem is there are actually going to be two growth rates in 2014. The top half of the American economy: 5 percent. It’s terrific, fast growth. … Now, the problem is that the bottom half is going to see 0 percent economic growth. If you look at the data on economic growth over the past seven years, you’ll find that the bottom half of the American economy has stayed stagnant or has lost purchasing power in inflation-adjusted terms every year for the past seven years. Imagine how exhausting this is for the bottom-half. We haven’t seen anything like that since the Great Depression.” …

“I do not begrudge the rich one dollar of their gains because this is America. But we’ve got to do something about people in the bottom half,”…

…”Listen to conservatives arguing about poverty. … You’ve heard it a million times, right? You’re poor, what do you hear? You hear, I care about money. I don’t care about poverty. I don’t care about you. I care about money. Right?”

“It’s time for conservative politicians and people of good faith to say, I’m going to fight for you and your family with conservative policies whether you vote for me or not, and actually mean it.”

…” I started doing a lot of reading about what actually helps poor people. And what did I find? I found that the free enterprise system has lifted more people out of poverty than any other system in history, Billions of people are not poor today because of your American free enterprise system that spread around the world after 1970. I want to fight for that. I want to do more of that. … Forget bringing down the top. Let’s lift up the bottom.”...

“So where are we? The first thing I told you is the poor are being left behind.” …

“The question is not if you’re mad enough to fight for change. The question is do you have enough love on your heart for everybody to fight for change. See, what leaders and patriots do is they fight for the weak, no matter how the weak vote. It doesn’t matter if they like the other guys. You’ve got to fight for them because that’s what leaders do. Do you have enough love written on your heart for everybody to get in the fight?”

“If you do, this country can win for the poor. This country can deliver on its promises. This country once again can be a beacon of hope for everybody, whether they’re coming here as immigrants or they’re not even here yet, but they’re Americans in their hearts. Or whether they’ve been here for a long time and they’ve been left behind. We are the generation that can make this occur. We can pass this on to people who are younger than us and they can be the heroes. They can be deputized to the heroic activity that is the patrimony left to us by the great founders of this nation.”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Volunteers Matter: Value of Consistency

By Facilities Supervisor Michael Kizzee

One of my favorite spiritual writers wrote that “consistency” is the virtue lacking most with modern Americans.  The volunteer Floyd Larson is definitely the exception.  Floyd has volunteered at Community LINC for around 15 years.  I say “around” on account he has been telling me for at least 3 years that he has volunteered for around 10 years.

Floyd started with a group of men from his church, who came every week to volunteer.  When I started at Community LINC, some of these men had passed away others had to stop coming on account of medical issues; only Floyd remained.  

Floyd still faithfully comes every Wed. at 9:00 a.m. sharp.  If Floyd is going to be late or out of town he calls to let me know, although I tell him it is unnecessary.  Floyd has been a constant in an ever changing organization and environment.  As our organization has flexed and grown, he has been asked to build walls only later to have been asked to tear them down again.  Never with complaint, never with resentment have I seen him.  Although he can’t say the same of me, I’m sure.

When we are working on construction projects many times I will point Floyd out to our families and tell them, “that man has consistently volunteered here for almost 15 years.”  When they see his age and hard work they are astonished.  This type of consistency is a model not only for our families but to all of us lacking such virtue.  Floyd helps me to keep going-on with this work when I feel overwhelmed and lost with the continual need.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Therapy Matters: Mental Health Matters

By Director of Mental Health Services Griselda Williams

As I read what Ms. Frenchie Pulluaim wrote about the many layers of pain, challenges and hurdles our families have endured and must try to move past to move into permanent housing, I thought about the mental health aspects that are connected to those “broken hearts”.  She wrote about “matters of the heart” being complicated and how they can lead to physical and medical issues. 

I see so often what Ms. Frenchie wrote about as it relates to mental health challenges. Those mental health challenges can work against the goals, hopes and dreams that our families have and the efforts those of us in the helping field extend to them. 

A current topic of discussion in mental health is depression, given the media focus on Robin Williams and other well-known people who struggle with this issue. While much of the media focus is on the famous we on the mental wellness team plan to focus on our families and the impact that depression has on them. 

We have planned upcoming program group topics on the subject as we often see that beginning this time of year through the end of the year depression increases greatly. 

As depression increases so does those who are so broken hearted often contemplate taking their own lives. Given all that our families have endured it is important to give them an opportunity to openly discuss the impact of depression as well as provide them resources for support and decrease the stigma related to seeking help for mental health challenges. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jobs Matter: A Refresing Sight

By Employment Coach Connie Taylor 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in June that the total nonfarm employment for the Kansas City, Mo.-Kan., Metropolitan Statistical Area stood at 1,017,000 in May 2014, up 1,900 or 0.2 percent, from May 2013.  This is great news for the participants of our job readiness program at Community LINC. 

More than 50% of our families are unemployed upon arrival.

It was refreshing a few days ago to see one of our aftercare participants still employed 10 months after she secured a job while living at Community LINC.  She had limited opportunities due to her prior criminal record. She was terminated for her participation in a public disturbance on her last job and convicted of assault. 

Although, it was not a pretty picture, we had to encourage her to continue to press forward.  She located a company that needed her ability to speak Spanish and applied for the position. She explained her poor choices and expressed regret and was afforded another chance at employment. She has proven herself to be trustworthy again and is looking forward to promotion to management one day.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Intake Matters: Wake-up call

By Intake and Resident specialist Holly Gardner

Most of the time I see our families eager to job search, have a paycheck again and work with our budgeters.  These are things that can be measured as they reach their goals. Almost always in the screening process money management comes up and is a common thread we can all relate to.  But sometimes it is health and reconnecting with doctors and other health professionals that takes a front seat after a family moves in from shelter as it was with Ms J.

When she reached out to us she shared she had no one to talk to, share with, ask advice from.  She had a serious illness and had not been able to let it fully sink in how it was going to impact her or her daughter.

Since moving in she has been given referrals and has followed up with doctors, counselors and others who specialize with people who are transitioning in to a new, different and for most a scary reality especially if family ties are broken. Since moving in and working with staff we have seen Ms J have a painful and very personal wake-up call and have seen her take her routine and health more seriously and try to use her energy wisely. 

She may not obtain employment  and move out in a more traditional way but she will have a community of health professionals, case managers and the like supporting and encouraging her. She moved in with little to no family support but will move out with a new family, a growing network of people who will be there on her darker days and remind her she is not alone.

Yes, sometimes our families get more productive and shine in ways they didn’t think they could and sometimes the light is even brighter for those whose journey is harder to measure.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Children Matter: First Days of School

By Children’s Program Coordinator Josh Chittum

The first week of school is crucial for creating a positive classroom culture. This is when friendships form, behavior expectations are introduced, and students learn important classroom procedures. When this first week goes smoothly, the rest of the school year is likely to have a solid footing.

When I taught for three years in high poverty schools, it was inevitable that not all of my students would arrive on the first day. Some would arrive later in the week. Some wouldn’t arrive until after the second week.  I rarely knew why some of my students were late; I simply adjusted to their presence and made them feel as welcome as possible. But I often felt disappointed, not at the child, of course, but at the fact that they had already missed so much!

I wanted each and every student to be in class when I shared about my life and why I became a teacher. I wanted them to be in class when we laughed at the silly name games we played, or when we had so much fun learning how to cooperate and communicate with each other during our get to know you activities.

I am now in a position to more clearly see the barriers that prohibit children from arriving the first day of school. The result of those barriers still disappoints me, but seeing behind this side of the curtain grows my empathy.

Ultimately, however, my empathy doesn’t change the fact that too many students miss the beginning of school and in some parts of the country, economically disadvantaged students are more likely to be chronically absent through the year than their peers. (See Chart 4 in The Important of Being in School published by John Hopkins University.)

So beyond empathy, what do we do? It’s easy to point fingers, but I don’t think children expect adults to point fingers at each other. I believe children expect their basic needs to be met and expect an opportunity to develop the skills that will allow them to create the largest life they can create, rather than be constrained by external factors. Again, just like empathy, rhetoric doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s a problem I will continue to seek a solution for.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Housing Matters: What Children Carry in their Backpacks

By Housing Coordinator Tammy Mayhue

Today I watched three children, dressed for school, backpacks on their backs, waiting for their school bus, while their mother was facing arrest for injuring someone during an incident of domestic violence.

As I stood watching, it appeared as though the children were not at all disturbed by the presence of the police, nor of the ambulance worker bandaging the wounds, perhaps because this was all too familiar. One of them even stated “I want to go to school”.

How do situations like these affect our children? They can become aggressive, disobedient, depressed, have low self-esteem, fears and even worse become abusers themselves.

It saddens me when I think about the children who outwardly appear to be fine just being children, but on the inside they are rippled with fears and insecurities of the unknown.

Our children carry more than school supplies in their backpacks.