Friday, August 21, 2015

Acceptance Instead of Judgement

By Dacia Moore, Aftercare Mental Wellness Therapist

 “I want to be a momma!” That is the slide that changed my life. 
On Wednesday, I attended a lunch presentation on poverty.  The speaker, Dr. Donna M. Beegle, is a former homeless woman who has successfully risen out of poverty to the middle class with an earned doctorate and financial stability.

Her presentation described how we, as community leaders/helpers can be more impactful when dealing with people in poverty.  Donna, as she likes to be called, lived in generational poverty.  Her parents and grandparents were migrant workers. That was the expectation she had for her life as well, but something changed her.  It was a pilot program that helped her move from poverty to the middle class.  Donna shares her story around the country, helping agencies and schools understand poverty, not only from her own personal experience, but also from the communication theory and resiliency theory body or research.

During the middle of her presentation she displayed a slide…  “I want to be a momma.”  Donna went on to explain that many people in poverty already feel hopeless about their future.  They don’t expect to do better, they don’t believe they will be successful and they struggle with self-esteem issues.  Since everybody wants to feel good about something, what’s left?  “I may never be rich, but I know that at least I can be a good momma,” is the thinking of many women in poverty. 

I was stunned.  I have been struggling with the fact that a few of my aftercare clients are pregnant, again.  My middle class mind was thinking, “How can you have another baby? And WHY would you want another baby?  You can’t afford the kids you have now!”

But that is Donna’s point. Our clients don’t have middle class thinking; they think differently than we do, and as providers, we need to understand that.

As an example, before having this “ah-ha” moment, I may have responded to this client by saying “Can you afford a child right now?  That may not be a good decision.”

Now, after my ah-ha moment, I may respond with “I understand you want to make a difference with somebody and matter.  Let’ talk more about that.”

Do you see the difference?  Response one was judgmental, not at all what my client needs.

Response two is more understanding and accepting; it keeps the door open for more conversations.

As providers we need to understand the culture of poverty and not be so quick to judge or rescue. 

I’m working with an agency to bring Donna back to KC and will make sure that we all have the opportunity to attend.  I sure hope she returns, I could use some more “ah-ha” moments. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Mother's Dream Come True

By Constance Taylor, Employment Job Coach

When Edwina joined our family at Community LINC she was very pleasant, but withdrawn and extremely independent. Although she wanted to finish college and get her degree she knew her highest priority was to continue working to secure permanent housing for herself and her two little boys. School would have to wait until the future as her children needed a place to call home.

Edwina had a few barriers prevented her from moving forward:  lack of transportation and several outstanding bills.  After working with Edwina and noticing her attitude towards reaching her goals, I realized that she was highly self-motivated.  She was introduced to Community LINC at the right time. Having a place to stay for a few months without the responsibility of paying rent and utilities, she was able to put herself in better financial position by saving her money.  Within a short time she had located a warrant amnesty program which removed $3,000 in traffic tickets and fees. Her face truly beamed as she shared her good news. Without a valid driver’s license and reliable transportation, Edwina had struggled to maintain employment and was unable to transport her children to and from daycare.  Through the Community LINC budgeting classes and savings plan she will be able to soon purchase her own car

Sometimes our dreams are not always bright lights.  Edwina works a split shift at a local restaurant.  In between shifts she picks her children up at the daycare and brings them home. Later she returns the children to daycare, then returns to work to finish her next shift.  Although she is making minimum wage Edwin has managed to save more than $1,000.  A few weeks ago, during apartment inspections, we entered Edwina’s apartment and found her fast asleep still in her work uniform.  Edwina wants the best for herself and her children and is willing to do all she can to overcome homelessness.  Recently, she informed me that she located an outside agency to assist in paying off a past judgement that will clear the way for her to move into the apartment complex of her choice with her boys.

After she moves to her new home, her next goal is to improve her income and finish school. One of the most exciting things in the world for me is to witness participants like Edwina overcome their barriers and move forward. The big smile on her face every time she meets an expectation is an over the top experience that brings my heart joy. Edwina and her sons are definitely moving in the right direction to become self- sufficient again.  

Monday, August 3, 2015

Children's Matters: The Barriers to Change

By Josh Chittum, Children's Program Coordinator

         Ending homelessness and transforming lives are the phrases that inform our mission.  As we carry this mission out, I intimately observe the process of change in the families we work with. From the outside looking in, this process can become frustrating, especially when time is of the essence to secure permanent housing. This frustration subsides when the reality of the difficulties of change in my personal life come into focus. Recently, something came into focus in a very vivid way and helped me gain a new layer of empathy for our program participants.

         It started with my anxiety. Since my earliest memory, I've experienced anxiety in some shape or form. Panic Attack Disorder started as a teenager. And for the majority of the last ten years, every time I've left my house I've carried a little orange bottle that serves as my safety blanket in case anxiety attacks me while I’m having dinner with friends. 

         Roughly one year ago I sought to take another step forward, having previously taken many steps, in my quest to escape anxiety’s grip. I purchased a book that came highly recommended and its intention was to teach the reader how to combat the worried mind with mindful acceptance of that worry. In the opening pages the author stated that my dependency upon that little orange pill bottle actually made things worse. Cutting myself off from it, he argued, would in the long run improve my coping skills and lessen my symptoms. This concept would not sink into my brain deep enough for full comprehension. Instead, I viscerally rejected the idea and placed the book off to the side where it has since remained unopened.

        Then, a few months ago my wife and I went camping and I placed the bottle in my camping pack. Returning back to the city and back to the routine of work I realized after three or four days that the medication was not on my person. I had forgotten to unpack it from the camping trip and I gasped at the fact that nothing terrible had occurred. In fact, in the following weeks I weaned myself off the pill bottle almost completely and indeed my symptoms have improved. 

        These are the messy stages of change. Incomprehension. Fear. Resistance. Painfully slow steps forward and backward. And forward again. It is unbelievably hard to implement change, even when I do not have the same set of obstacles before me as the wonderful people I interact with every single day at Community LINC.

        While some of our residents are fully aware of the changes they need to make and are working towards those changes, they cannot flip an immediate switch. Others are more like me and viscerally react to a proposed new way of doing things. They put the idea on a shelf for another, unidentified time in the future. 

        But as an agency, even when those individuals are not yet ready to wrestle with the scariness that change presents, we continue to walk with them. We listen to them. We provide resources to them. We encourage them. We may even gently push them at certain times. And we plant seeds in them. These seeds may not sprout until months or years after they've left. But that’s the true anatomy of change. That's the work I’m proud of us for doing. That's the work of transforming lives.