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.