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.