Friday, June 26, 2015

So Very Appreciative and Deserving

By Constance Taylor, Employment Services Job Coach

I get such an awesome opportunity as a job coach to work with families like Sharon and her teenage daughter.  They are such a delight to watch as they scurry together trying to put their lives in motion.

Sharon ended up in homelessness after helping to care for her parents.  Her father passed away and her mother is in a nursing home unable to care for herself. Shortly after, unable to maintain the expenses of the home, they had to move out of the house.

Sharon has a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and is working part-time as a cashier/front desk attendant. She is willing to do whatever it takes to put her family back together again.

She is confident, but humble enough to work with our volunteer budgeters and staff learning new skills. She is appreciative of everything anyone does for her family. Her daughter is enrolled in Mind Drive, which is an engineering and science-based program for teens. She is also in job training for teens at the Halo Foundation.   

This is a woman deserving of good things. She works hard and desires to reach her potential. She also exposes her daughter to many learning opportunities.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Intake Matters: Change

By Holly Gardner, Intake Specialist

In our lobby there is a sign that greets staff and families every day.  It reads:  Change is not only inevitable, it is essential to survival. Why fear it or fight it when you can simply embrace it?  

Our families bring a host of experiences with them.  We help them organize and define next steps not just with housing; our services include budgeting, health and wellness, and referrals for legal and other issues.  We coach, we encourage and one of the primary things we see our families struggling with and preparing for is change.

Our application asks people to write down some of the things that have contributed to their current situation.  Some people write lengthy narratives about jobs, relatives, health.  Some people write a sentence or two and do their best to articulate what was and is happening in their lives.  One thing they all have in common is coping with major changes.  Loss of employment and/or a significant other are usually high on the list of contributing factors. We see bruised egos, we see loss of confidence. But in these conversations we also see the bright, burning light of perseverance.  We see them in their next job, a better job.  We see them in a home, a more stable home.  We see their kids coming and going from home base.  We see the family around the table having meals and being an active part of their new community. We let them know in all the ways we can that there may be ups and downs but they are not walking this walk alone.

Change is all around us.  It is a factor of being.  We know not all change is welcome and sometimes it brings heartaches, but it also brings growth. Here at Community LINC we do our best to embrace it, welcome it and understand it comes with living, it is inevitable.  How we choose to cope with change is what helps us adapt and eventually to thrive again. Opening ourselves up to others and asking for help can also bring change, sometimes needed and necessary to reach our goals. Today as I leave the office and go home to my busy little family. I will glance at that reminder on our wall and smile. Yes, for the most part, change is GOOD! Thanks again for the reminder.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Children's Matters: Protective Factors for Families

By Josh Chittum, Children's Program Director

Our Manager of Mental Health Services has written recently about the village effect here at Community LINC. Out of all the various members of the village, it is the family unit, small micro-villages themselves that I’d like to focus upon for this week’s blog. As Community LINC’s Children’s Program Coordinator I frequently witness the intimate ways in which families function. I see how families struggle as well as how families rely on their strengths. I also notice the impact that family health has on children and youth and their development.

To better understand the role family dynamics has on children, I traveled to Jefferson City in April for a fantastic conference organized by the Missouri Children’s Trust Fund. During the conference I attended two training sessions on a curriculum developed by the University of Missouri Extension in collaboration with the Children’s Trust Fund, Project Launch, and Missouri Department of Mental Health.

The curriculum is titled “Strong Parents, Stable Children: Building Protective Factors to Strengthen Families” and focuses on strength-based assumptions about families. From there it explores five factors that help children and youth stay safe and thrive. The five factors are: concrete need in time of support, parent resilience, parenting knowledge, social connections, and social/emotional skills of children.

I loved the strength-based approach of the curriculum and the fact that it is not designed for one specific population. The ideas presented are ideas all parents can use whether they are experiencing homelessness or not. Whether parents live in an economically depressed zip code or not does not matter. The professor who developed the curriculum uses the five concepts in his family and I know that when my wife and I start a family we will pull from these concepts as well.

When I returned from the conference I approached my supervisor and the Manager of Mental Health Services about collaborating and presenting the protective factors curriculum to parents at Community LINC. Last month we held our first session with about eight mothers and it went phenomenally well.

I shiver when I hear one-dimensional descriptions of those experiencing homelessness. The negative adjectives used to paint a picture of those that would arrive at a place like Community LINC were not on display the night of the presentation.  The mothers fortified the community village that Manager of Mental Health Services Griselda Williams speaks about. They gave each other insights, tips, and strategies, and encouraged one another when issues with their children seemed overwhelming. They took down notes when they learned something new. They were not passive recipients of information designed for those that have “failed” in life. They, along with me, were active learners engaging with the curriculum. And all of us sought to improve the lives of children staying at Community LINC.  

The implementation of this curriculum is evidence that we are not paying lip service to being a client-centered and strengths-based organization. We carry out this philosophy in the daily decisions we make.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Fear of Moving Forward

By Johnae Sawyer, Aftercare Case Manager

The world is a scary place especially for those who experience being homeless. Many of the families I work with have one thing in common, fear of returning to homelessness. Not everyone that becomes homeless is someone that had no desire to work or care for their families. Many people experience some sort of life changing event that affects their financial stability.  Things spiral out of control leaving families with nowhere to call home. While case managing families, I see first-hand, the fear of what’s to come, that many program participants struggle to focus on the present.

One of my clients has struggle with securing permanent employment after leaving Community LINC and moving into permanent housing. She was offered a job at a large corporation and was so excited to start her new journey making more money than she’s ever made. She resigned from her old job and a week before she was to start her new position she received a letter stating that all positions had been filled and they were no longer in need of additional employees. This was devastating and a major blow to her financially. I continued to encourage her never to give up and that this was just a stumbling block. She continued to search and found another job however it was only part-time but was more than what she had. In her case her fears motivated her to give life all she has so that she will be able to keep a roof over her and her child’s head.  She has now secured a new position and within a month was told to apply for a higher paying position due to her excellent work ethic. Life can throw out many curve balls however hard work and dedication always pays off in the long-run.