Friday, March 18, 2016

For the Sake of the Twins

By Employment Job Coach Constance Taylor

 Several months had gone by and I could see the disappointment in Briana’s face each time she entered the computer lab. She had gone to interview after interview expecting a door to open and yet, still no job. I didn’t want her to lose hope and so I decided to send her to a training class with an internship attached. She was excited at the opportunity. Briana attended the orientation and learned that a company she had applied to work for was having a hiring fair in the same building in the next few days. She did some networking, scheduled an interview at the same job fair, and was hired a few days later. Although it was not the opportunity she was expecting to follow, Briana was thrilled about the quick turnaround.  

Briana is not unaccustomed to unexpected change.  She told me what it was like to have two children born at the same time. One boy and one girl. This meant she had to budget to buy two of everything. On top of that, one child was quite ill growing up, so Briana had seen some difficult days. Her mom passed away two short years ago from cancer and today her children’s dad is suffering from the same disease. She has had to fight to move forward for the sake of the twins on many occasions. 

It is always impressive when parents strive for the sake of their children. Kids really do make the world go around. Now that the twins are older, Briana looks for the best. She has started her new position and is searching for housing. Her life has become different for the sake of the twins.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Healthy Lifestyle Groups Matter

By Griselda Williams, Mental Wellness Services Manager

Recently, I was asked by a coworker if I felt the Healthy Lifestyles groups should continue. The Tuesday/Thursday evening groups have been held for many years and we wondered if the current process was useful.   I replied, “Yes” we need to continue the groups. When asked what the contribution was, I remarked that education, support, connection to community resources and relationship building are the greatest benefits.

The group meetings are a good time to share information with our Interim Housing residents. We have invited numerous people from different agencies to visit our group meetings. For example:
  •  Harvester’s staff share nutrition information and sign residents up for food stamps/the SNAP program.
  • University of Missouri-Extension staff also provide nutrition classes for adults and teens. The instructor is a single mother and when she speaks to our single mother residents, they listen.
  • Habitat for Humanity staff share how our residents can become homeowners someday.
  • Staff from the Kansas City Care Clinic educate residents on the importance of finding a medical home at their clinic, even if they don’t have health insurance.
  • The KC Care Staff also educate residents on the new Affordable Care Act insurance program and the consequence of not having insurance when they file 2017 taxes. The staff also help residents enroll in the ACA since most adults have no insurance when they enter our program.
  • One guest educated our women’s group participants on breast cancer awareness and testing. This was timely as one of our residents tested positive for stage 3 breast cancer and was able to engage with this support as she began treatment.
  • Peers from the RESPECT Institute through the Missouri Department of Mental Health with experience in mental health issues, substance abuse, homelessness and other challenges visit on a regular basis. They share personal stories about how engaging in needed mental health services and supports helped turn their lives around. They also encourage residents to engage in needed supports for their challenges. Given that the peers have gone through the same things our residents have or are currently going through, our residents listen to their advice.
We have numerous other guests from various agencies and organizations, all of whom volunteer their time to speak to our adult groups. These relationships can continue for our residents after they move on to permanent housing within the community.
While we have many community guests, we also try to address issues in-house, with a focus on topics that meet our resident’s needs. We discuss numerous topics, among them:
 Setting boundaries and developing and maintaining healthy relationships
  • Solution-finding and goal setting tools
  • Coping tools for stress management and managing depression and anxiety
  • Parent As Role Models, Helping One’s Child After a Trauma (homelessness is considered a traumatic event for children) and other parenting topics

 Sometimes we watch movies for inspiration. Recently, when we watched a movie, the women decided to bring items for a pot luck. Some baked cupcakes, some brought punch and others made dip for chips and soup. The ladies watched the movie and discussed it while they celebrated positive relationships with one another and the “village” like environment we often see with residents at Community LINC.

When the residents come together for program group meetings they often share resources, give support and build positive relationships with other residents. Just this week, one woman shared that her place of employment is hiring for part-time weekend staff. Another resident shared a childcare resource with a woman who just moved into our program. There are some adult residents who remain friends once they move to permanent housing. One woman shared, “we are all in this together” and she has given a great deal of support to the other single mothers.

I could go on and on about the benefits of keeping the Healthy Lifestyles groups because I see so many positives that come out of these meetings. So, if anyone were to ask me if we need to continue the meetings, all I have to say is, “You bet, because Healthy Lifestyle Groups matter!”