Thursday, January 30, 2014

Intake Matters: Intake during the winter

By Intake Case Manager Holly Gardner
This is my first winter working in my capacity as an intake specialist. There is always a sense of urgency when you are working with homeless families, but it really intensifies as the temperatures drop, becoming more deadly, and our volume of calls and referrals increase.
With this in mind I wanted to highlight our newest family to move in. A mom who is in her 3rd trimester of pregnancy, a dad and their two 10 year old sons.  For the last few weeks they have been living in a vehicle on and off.
How does a family go from having close family ties, community supports, income and some security to living in their vehicle? These are sometimes complex answers.
This dad’s complicated history includes being jailed for unpaid child support for a son he actually has custody of.  During this time, he lost the apartment that he had been renting for over 2 years. Although very fit and healthy, he is finding it challenging to find a job with a felony on his record.
Mom's history includes fleeing a violent ex, receiving counseling for related issues and choosing to move away from an unhealthy support system even if it means entirely rebuilding her life.
Needless to say, after I move a family in, our employment coach, family coach and family therapist have their work cut out for them. It isn't easy to connect with a new family, “meet them where they are”, and encourage them on their journey to remove barriers find a new home and a new start. Housing is our priority and we work as a team to help ensure the most successful transition from our program to what truly will be a permanent home.
The gratitude parents share with me is hard to explain.  It is warmth like no other. 
This family explained how having a simple meal together in their dining room with their two boys seated together was what they were looking forward to the most.  This is a small gesture that many families may take for granted. A meal together, seated at the same table, and how that moment is what inspires them to keep moving forward.
As I drove home Friday to my elderly dad and husband, my mind was on this family and their evening together.  We also had our dinner together that very chilly night and I gave my thanks that we had one less family sleeping outside in these bitter conditions.
We know there is one more family with hope again, a plan and supportive staff ready to greet them Monday morning. I know our work with this family has only begun, but making it to this stage from their life on the streets in the heart of winter feels like such an accomplishment. It is truly warming.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Aftercare Matters: It doesn't stop there...

By CTI Case Manager Sara Barrett
Moving into permanent housing is an exciting and monumental goal for families of Community LINC. There are few things in this line of work, in my opinion, that come with the feeling of watching a family walk into a home to be theirs for the first time.
A common question I am asked by clients when they first come to Aftercare is, “So, what now?”
Aftercare helps families address this question. A roof over their heads, is just the foundation and starting point for a journey of success. Aftercare, often for the first time, challenges families to believe there is more to them than a goal of not being homeless. Once housing is stabilized, and budgets are in place, Aftercare pushes families to think further and answer questions about their goals for them personally and dreams they have wanted to accomplish. Often times these goals and dreams include establishing a substantial savings, finishing basic education credentials or beginning college or finishing a certification, home or small business ownership, and extra-curricular activities to help shape the talents of their children.
Nearly every family starts Aftercare meetings with the CTI Case Manager and the family sitting on the floor of their new space, with only beds to call their own, answering that question of, “So, what now?” It is a beautiful journey to move from floor-sitting to thriving in the community and dreams coming true that never could have been touched or thought of without a permanent place to call  home...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Children Matter: "I am more than your image of me"

By Child Therapist Casondra Foster
****** is a teen who did not like to meet with her therapist or participate in the teen groups. 
During the month of November we did a teen group “myths of the media” where we discussed on some of the incorrect perceptions that are displayed or glorified by the music that we listen to and the videos that we watch.  This particular group generated a lot of conversation about how music portrays women and the importance of knowing your own self-worth. 
There was some disclosure among the group about similar life experiences.  *****  took this opportunity to open up to the group about some of her previous experiences before she moved to Community LINC and some of the current challenges that she faces in her home. 
She was empowered by encouragement from her teen group facilitators and peers to not settle for what society views her as, but to always be willing to speak up for herself. 
She began to meet regularly with her therapist and reach out for help with addressing her feelings of “being left behind” at her school. 
She is currently more outspoken and does not hesitate to reach out for the support of her therapist to assist with her issues at her current school and other issues that prevalent in her life.  She has also been able to mend some of the previously damaged relationships with others in her teen group.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Program Matters: Rules are made to be broken?

Senior Director of Programs Jeannine Short
Community LINC has had a longstanding rule that families who have exited the program could not re-enter.  Given the emphasis on harm-reduction, however, we have taken steps to align our processes by shifting our focus away from static rules to the big picture—helping families become permanently housed.
Recently, a single mother of four made the decision to exit the program (without agency assistance) for what she thought was a permanent housing opportunity.  She soon discovered, however, that the decision was erroneous at best and requested re-entry into the program.  Other program performance issues notwithstanding, the family was allowed to return.
Approximately two months later, this young mother had obtained fulltime employment, signed a lease, and was given the keys to her own permanent residence.  On the day of her exit, she came to my office to tearfully express her gratitude.  In her words, “Thank you for giving me a second chance… for believing that I could it.”
I don’t know who coined the phrase “rules are made to be broken”, but in this case I’m very glad they did.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Families Matter: And, they always come first

By Family Coach Frenchie Pulluaim
Mrs. L. C.’s family is one whose struggles made a successful exit from the program appear quite impossible.  But, one of the best things about our program is that we provide wrap around services that allow families to be successful against all odds.
Mom was in need of family counseling as well as assistance getting the correct services for her school age children. 
This may seem like something simple, but, believe me, it is not. 
Mrs. C. even lost good employment opportunities due to her son’s suspensions from school and the overwhelming number of meetings needed to address his behavior. 
Although there was an IEP (individual education plan), it was doing little to assist the child or the family.  Ryan, our Children’s Program Director, was able to get her son what he needs to be successful in school by stepping in to advocate for him, and creating some resources and services that helped the whole family. 
Our staff became the family and support that Mrs. C. needed to get motivated and back on track. Today, this thankful and happy family has a permanent place in a three bedroom home. 
Community LINC recognizes that families truly are unique, sometimes unpredictable, and always worthy of all the assistance we can give them.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Employment Matters: Dreaming of a brighter future

By Job Readiness Coach Constance Taylor
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that “the unemployment rate declined from 7.3 percent to 7.0 percent in November, and total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 203,000. 
Employment increased in transportation and warehousing, health care, and manufacturing.
The number of persons reported unemployed less than 5 weeks declined by 300,000 in November partially reflecting the return of work of federal employees on lay off in October due to the partial government shutdown. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 4.1 million in November. The number of long-term unemployed has declined by 718,000 over the past 12 months.”
N. has accepted a position with a local retail industry and is preparing to take on line G.E.D. courses to improve her educational status and advance to management.
After several months of experiencing strong feelings of defeat she decided to focus on what she had to offer over other candidates. How could she solve problems for employers became her primary focus? She was able to speak fluent Spanish and located a merchant who needed her skill and was quickly placed on the payroll. 
N. has moved into permanent housing and is happy to be among those that are now successfully employed.
She is dreaming of a brighter future. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Volunteers Matter: Group Projects

By Volunteer Coordinator Kate Nevins
Have you ever considered volunteering at Community LINC? One great way to get involved without making a large commitment is to schedule a day to volunteer with a group. We like to host about one group a month to provide an opportunity for corporations or other groups to learn about us and give back to the community, as we understand that most people cannot make a weekly or even monthly commitment.
In these cold winter months, there is less desire to go out and volunteer, but it is a great time to schedule projects for the Spring, Summer and Fall. Some employers will even allow for a Volunteering Day in place of a normal work day. We tailor projects to the abilities and interests of each group, and we work with you to make sure your group will have a positive, memorable experience. If you have any questions about setting up a group project, please contact Kate Nevins at or at 816-561-5862.