Monday, March 31, 2014

Poverty and the minimum wage

By CEO/Executive Director Laura Gray

I’m always torn when I get something urging me to contact my Senator and Congressman to do something like raise the minimum wage. You might think that it’s an automatic “yes” for someone who works in an organization that serves the homeless. Obviously, my heart is pulled to a mission that helps people who are among the poorest of the poor.

But, the pull of my heart is balanced by my head. I have an undergraduate degree in Economics and an MBA in Finance. I realize that raising the minimum wage will raise costs for a lot of businesses. That increase will be passed on to us as consumers, some of whom are the very people whose increased minimum wage will have to absorb the rising prices.

But, I also realize that right now a single mother with two kids working 40 hours per week will still be below the poverty level. She’ll qualify for other forms of government subsidies, so in a way businesses that don’t pay minimum wage are increasing the cost of subsidies taxpayers have to support.

There are a lot of other arguments on both the head and heart sides of the issue. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t easy despite all of the passionate opinions on both sides.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Housing Matters: Becoming

By Housing Coordinator Tammy Mayhue

Attempting to find housing for families who have been homeless awhile is harder than it looks. Sometimes providers may feel that as soon as ‘anything’ is available they should be grateful for the opportunity. The truth is we forget that the families we serve are not new to housing.

Some have had housing in neighborhoods where we may want to reside. Others may have lived in areas that are less than desirable to live in. The point is, they have rights and have made their own decisions whether good for them or not. Who are we to say?

Housing is not just a place to be, housing is a place to ‘become’. Families sometimes are unable to look forward to the future until they have a place to not only become, but also to dream.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Children Matter: And So Does School

By Children’s Program Director Ryan Blake

A few months ago I met two brothers who were struggling academically.  Their homelessness and transportation issues had caused them to miss numerous school days.  Their falling grades didn’t reflect how intelligent they both were.  I explained to them how our after school program could help them with their homework.  Along with the falling grades came behavioral problems at school.  The boy’s parents made it very clear to them that grades and behavior at school were important and needed to improve.

Since our original meeting they have never missed a day of after school programming or our life skills classes.  Both of them consistently bring their homework and their questions.  We continue to work on fractions and reading comprehension as well as perseverance and self-esteem.   It has been a pleasure seeing how supportive their parents continue to be and how much their children have grown academically.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Intake Matters: A family's voice

By Intake and Resident Specialist Holly Gardner

This month I would like to highlight a new family.  I screened Mr. C. on February 18th.  He was new to town and living in a motel with his girlfriend and newborn baby. They entered in to our program on Feb 24th. They have been working with our housing specialist, other staff and are making plans for next steps. It has been a whirlwind for this family. They are so appreciative, pro-active and have great attitudes, so I wanted to share their story with you in his words.  I hope this will bless you as much as it has me.

In Mr. C.'s words:

“God is good all the time.”

“My Name is Mr C. I moved from Arkansas to KC in January 2014 to be reunited with my longtime girlfriend of 7 years.  Since arriving in KC I have found myself homeless along with my girlfriend and her newborn son."

"What started as a motel check-in for one week led to so many blessings.  On Feb 3rd we checked into a motel for the next 3 days just as a  storm moved thru KC and we got 10 inches of snow and ice.  By the 4th day staying in the motel I was praying for God to give us shelter and keep us together and safe.  Keep in mind the weather was really bad and cold."

"I believe God put us in contact with a father and son who offered to give us a ride to the grocery store.  He gave us a phone number to a church named The River.  I called the number and left a message saying we needed a ride to the church that Sunday."

"At this point we had been in the motel for 6 days and had to check out that Monday morning.  God blessed us and put us in contact with a woman named D who later put us in contact with another lady.  These two women met us at the motel on Monday morning, our check-out morning.  They took some information from me and my girlfriend, said a prayer with us that was so powerful I can’t even explain."

"That following Thursday we moved in to Crossroads shelter. We had our screening appointment at Community LINC and within days moved in to a furnished apt at Community LINC."

"We have only been here a little while, about 2 weeks, and Community LINC has helped us with another blessing, our first house! It feels like it is being built just for us! Everything is new!"

"The amazing part of everything is that the motel we were staying in is just across the hi-way and our new home is being built just down the street from the church that assisted us.  I must not forget that church, The River! It is just a few blocks from where we will be living. Awesome God we have. We move in to our new home April 2014.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Programs Matter: A Short-Term Sacrifice for a Long-Term Benefit

By Sr. Director of Programs & Operations Jeannine Short
Having recently attended the 2014 Housing Partners Conference that focused on the new Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing Models, it is becoming increasingly evident that the new models are having a significant impact on homelessness around the country.  With agencies touting outcomes as high as 87% in housing placement and retention, it is clear that the models work. The question that begs an answer, however, is the short-term affect that such rapid movement has on the children.
Case-in-point, I had a conversation with our Children’s Program therapists to get their perspectives on the new models.  Though they have a firm grasp of the positive long-term benefit of permanently housing families as quickly as possible, they are also keenly aware of the short-term and perhaps not so positive impact on the kids.
Asking the very pointed question, “have you noticed any changes in the kid’s behaviors since we’ve moved from a one-year stay to 120 days?” resulted in a resounding “Yes”. They are observably more detached, disruptive, and likely to engage in behaviors that could result in dismissal from the evening activities.
Being careful not to imply that these behaviors are characteristic of homeless children in general, suffice it to say that the underlying issue fueling the changes in behavior (in this case) is the fear of creating emotional bonds and building new relationships, only to have them broken… once again.
Can this be classified a short-term sacrifice for a long-term benefit? I would say.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Just like us

By Jeremy Lillig, CSJA, Managing Director, Bright Futures Fund
Despite working in a non-profit setting in which we too serve the poor, I oftentimes am reminded of the magnitude of suffering and despair that those who are homeless or who live in poverty must endure.
This week I learned of the untimely death of, Seth, a fellow college alum who is my contemporary.  Only the news of his death would be tragic in any sense, this news was especially troubling.
Right before Christmas while volunteering at Morning Glory CafĂ©, a former professor and I served Seth a meal -much to our surprise given the fact that he was highly intelligent, very talented, able bodied and had a master’s degree.  This event, though laced with ignorance on my part was an important reminder that the homeless are not some isolated group but rather just like us.  They are just fellow human beings trying to survive.
So this week when I learned that Seth had been found dead in a pile of trash I was filled with sadness.  He had taken shelter in a dumpster to try and keep warm.  As awful as this act seems it is oftentimes a necessary step in survival to someone who is homeless.  When the trash truck was picking up its rounds, Seth was killed in the process.  The workers (who also endured a tragedy while simply doing their jobs) discovered Seth when they got to the plant.  Seth’s lifeless body lay amongst the refuse of a busy city, a city that unintentionally had let one of its fellow citizens die without dignity in a pile of trash while trying to stay warm.
Seth, a capable person who had long suffered a lack of resolve in our mental health system had become another statistic of our “throw away culture’ in which the value of human life is low, and material wealth determines drive, and destiny.  My effort in telling this story is not to politicize nor manipulate a tragedy for a social agenda but rather to reflect upon my reminder that I must do more to help address those discarded by our society.
Every person deserves dignity without distinction.  It is within our means to ensure that it is given.
This exemplifies the importance of Community LINC.  If we can help just one person so they don’t have to endure the undignified fate that Seth did, we will have made an impact far more valuable than any wealth we could ever possess. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Therapy Matters: "I Found My Way".

By Therapist David Simpson

When I first met with this client, I found him deeply saddened and depressed. He had lost very significant relationships, his employment, and home, plus he was struggling with legal problems. 

The client had never engaged in individual therapy services. Once a trusting therapeutic relationship was developed, the client actively began the healing process.  

This can also be attributed to his ability to successfully engage in program expectations i.e. securing employment, housing and resolving his legal issues. 

Ultimately, the client was able to reunite with his loved ones with a better understanding and appreciation for family and community.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Jobs Matter: "When Good Out Weighs the Bad"

By Employment Job Coach Connie Taylor

The minimum wage for Missourians remained at $5.15 for 10 years until a law was passed in 2006 to increase it each year for cost of living/inflation changes.  The minimum wage increased to $5.85 in 2007, $6.55 in 2008, $7.25 in 2009, and in January 2014 it increased to $7.50.

Advocates for higher minimums say it’s past time to make the wage floor do a better job reflecting the cost of living. According to polls, most Americans say the current minimum, at whatever level, isn’t enough to provide a livable wage for a full-time worker trying to maintain a household.

Although $7.50 an hour is less than most of our families need to survive, is it an improvement for entry-level employees. Due to limited education (no high school diploma or high school equivalency) and little or no work history, many of our clients earn minimum wage and work less than 25 hours per week until they prove themselves on the job. Once they reach full time 40 hour weeks, their income is still less than $16,000 a year.

Last week, I called one of our residents to check on his progress. He said that he was actually on his way to my office to talk. His very words were, “I have good news and bad news.”  I was unsure what to expect knowing that he had only been on his job for a few weeks.  I later discovered that his dilemma was much like most of the families we serve. Now that he was earning an income ($7.50 an hour) he would no longer be eligible to receive TANF cash assistance ($232 a month). In fact, the money he was expecting had not been deposited in his account the day before. His first paycheck, which was for less than 40 hours, was only around $40.00. He would have to wait another week before he would receive any additional income. Sadness gripped my heart as I thought about his circumstances and his inability to see past his current circumstances of “not enough.”

Then the good news. His job was offering him an opportunity to transfer to a new location where he would be scheduled 40 hours a week and considered a full time, regular employee. He would no longer be required to float between two stores miles apart. 
The highlight of our conversation was that his employer was very pleased with his work. Because he had proven his ability to perform his job duties and displayed responsibility and trust, he is now moving up to a better, full time position. He was told that his income is likely to increase by $1.00 an hour over the next few months, as long as he remains stable.

Good news for a job well done!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Volunteers Matter: Words from a Community LINC Volunteer

By Mental Wellness Intern (and temporary Volunteer Coordinator) Aurora Barker
22-year-old Ashley Williams has quite the busy schedule these days. She is a first semester nursing student at Penn Valley Community College, as well as a nurse’s assistant at North Kansas City Hospital. Although her days are hectic, she is still able to find time to volunteer in Community LINC’s beloved children’s program, where she spends her Thursday nights with our infants and toddlers.
Q: How did you find out about Community LINC? And how long have you been volunteering here?
A: I found out about Community LINC on There were a lot of volunteer opportunities listed in the Kansas City area, but Community LINC stood out to me the most. I have been volunteering at Community LINC for six months now.
Q: What is your favorite part about volunteering?
A: I love watching the kids work together and play nicely with each other. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s really great to see when it does.
Q: Any special memories you would like to share?
A: There’s an adorable one year old that used to always cry when his mom first started dropping him off here, but now he has completely adjusted and is always happy to be here. His hair grows in a natural curly Mohawk, which is so funny, and he eats so much! I have no idea where all the food goes. I’ve definitely formed a special bond with him and will be sad to see him go.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Children Matter: Big and small, donations help kids of all ages

By Children’s Program Director Ryan Blake
Working in the non-profit world I have come to realize that funding is a constant source of concern. I see our fundraising department work tirelessly to ensure that we have enough funds to continue to operate and plan for the future.
This ever-present issue of funding has allowed me to see how important donations are to Community LINC and specifically the Children’s Program. In-kind donations of goods and services as well as monetary donations allow our program to meet the needs of the children we serve.
Our volunteers donate countless hours of their time to provide program classes and tutoring for students.  Individuals and organizations donate items that we distribute to children throughout the year.
These donations provide our children with journals to write about their experiences, toothbrushes to keep their teeth clean, and books to read and school supplies to use.  A donation of a washing machine and dryer ensure that we are able to clean all fabric items that our infants and toddlers use. A donated basketball goal provides our young male students with a physical outlet and a place where I can provide case management.  Students are able to use donated laptops to complete homework at our after school program.  Continuous donations of healthy snacks and juice allow us to provide every student with a snack when they come to tutoring.
In fact the majority of the materials and supplies we use in Children’s Programing are donated. I am continually amazed by the generosity of others in supporting our program. It is this generosity that allows our programs to serve the children at Community LINC.