Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thank You Community LINC

Shared by a current Community LINC program participant

My name is Lachelle* and I have two children. For several years I was in a domestic violence situation that had control over my life. I reached out to different agencies to help me get re-established, and I became domestic violence free. Over the years I had moved around a lot and was in debt. We lost our place of residence, and I did not know where to turn, so I went to a local homeless shelter with my two children. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and lost. The homeless shelter sent me to Community LINC, and once my kids and I moved into the Community LINC program, our lives began to change for the better. The Community LINC staff and supporters helped my family learn how to move forward with our lives. My youngest child made new friends that had the same experiences that he did. The new friendships have helped my son feel he has peers who he can talk openly with about his experiences. The program also helped him with coping tools to deal with homelessness and an understanding of how to manage a world of uncertainty. I, too, was given several supports in the way of budgeting classes and healthy lifestyle group topics that were helpful for me. I also participated in individual therapy sessions that helped me find myself, tap into my strengths and identify the barriers that were getting in the way of my progress. While I was learning about my barriers, I also learned how to overcome them, as well as how to support my children as we journeyed to a more stable life. I will forever be grateful for this program. God has blessed this program and blessed us to be able to be a part of it. Since we have been at Community LINC, I have gained a full-time job, found permanent housing for my family, returned to church, and I now connected to helpful resources in the community. I would like to say “thank you” to the Community LINC staff for believing in us and giving us this opportunity to get our lives back on track. 

*Name have been changed to protect the identity of the program participant

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Perfect World

By Holly Gardner, Intake Specialist

In a perfect world, I get an empty manila folder handed to me with only a family’s name and contact info. After checking a few details, I arrange an appointment for screening; upon acceptance into the program, I estimate a ready date; and then I provide a move-in date and time to the new family.  Again, this world is perfect, so the apartment is clean, decorated by volunteers and ready just when the family needs it.

On their move-in day, the family is given a walk-through of their apartment and a hug or two. The family and I both get emotional when I hand them the key. They accept it, and we both know this relationship - this program - will impact their life journey in a very positive way. But again, this is a perfect world. 

Moving to the real world: We recently screened and accepted a family into our program. The manila folder was on the corner of my desk next to my “to do” list.  In just a few short days the family went from strangers to the newest family preparing to move in.  The young mom was nine months pregnant and had three other youngsters.  Her situation at the shelter and other community resources were waning, and her stress levels were increasing. She left me a soft, sad message on my answering machine hoping to move up her move-in date.

I let our team know we needed to do all we could to speed up the process. Everyone pitched in, from maintenance to cleaning to decorating. As they do so often, things just fell into place.  Our maintenance team was in the middle of some pretty extensive projects, and I did get a grimace or two, but they assured me that yes they could do it for this mom and her family.  Everything was touched, improved upon, updated and personalized. I was able to call her back and let her know that what we thought would take us three days we were able to accomplish in a day.  Her apartment was ready for her and her children.  In a perfect world maybe this family would not ever need us, or maybe her barriers could be overcome without the rigors of a program but we all know perfection is hard to find.  In this instance, for this family, we got very, very close.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

China Is My Home

By Cais Monroe, Facilitator

“I want you to draw whatever you think of when you hear the word home."  Mr. Joshua, Community LINC's Children's Program Manager, was explaining an activity that I would never forget, "it can be your room, your state, your old home, your family... whatever that is I want you to draw it." Then he further explained his personal idea of home, “I moved around a lot when I was younger, so where ever my family is, it became home for me.”  Some children drew houses, others drew their bedrooms, and participating staff drew pictures of their homes and maps of the states where they lived. One person even drew an outline of California and the beaches there back in her home city, however, there were two particular children whose pictures sank deep into my mind.

Out of respect for their privacy, I won't mention their names I'll refer to them as K and J. Both boys full of so much character and personality; characters so very different but a walk of life with similar obstacles. I asked K, what he was drawing, so neatly and creatively, coloring away so care-free, no shame in his perspective of "home.” "It’s the hotel,” he said still coloring without ever looking up. Bringing back my oppressed memory of when my family lived briefly in an American Inn Motel I thought it would be the appropriate moment to share our stories. K told me about how much fun it was residing in the hotel, riding in the hotel elevators every morning and having his family so close to each other in one room. I shared with him that "we had two queen size beds in our room and my brother and I would jump from bed to bed trying not to touch the ground of imaginary lava.” K finally looked up, and we laughed.

J, who is six years old and incredibly smart and does a hilarious hillbilly impersonation (sorry, that's what he calls it), well he drew a picture of China. Completely puzzled and dying to know his thoughts, I asked him more about his drawing. He told me, "I'm going to live in China one day and it's going to be my home."  He named some historical figures from China and asked me if I knew any. Totally embarrassed that I didn't know any of these great legends but thoroughly impressed at the same time, I was blown away by his knowledge of a land that seems so far away from us. J was a young man focused on his future, not held back or confined to a definition of home, with an understanding that he could go where ever he wanted in life, even China.

These children understand that their circumstances do not define them and if they are ever doubtful, we are here to remind them. They have an unusual perspective on life that we as adults could adopt from time to time. But this is why Community LINC, is so important. The reality is there isn't always (if ever) an opportunity to have these type of conversations at school. At Community LINC these activities present so many opportunities to for us to share our stories with one another, be able to relate to each other and encourage our children that these situations aren't ever –lasting. I must say that they help us as well with their resilient ways of thinking which give us the chance to build on that foundation.