Smiling at independence

An Ultimate Goal: Independence

Smiling manAddicted to drugs and with his life falling apart,  Steve travelled from Chicago to Minneapolis to find a treatment program. A friend suggested and generously gifted Steve with a bus ticket, which began a decade of upward momentum toward independence. Steve recalls that the first thing he saw after getting to Minneapolis was the Metrodome. He climbed out of the bus, kissed the ground there, and has felt “blessed ever since.”

Need, poverty, and hunger often look differently than we expect.

Shortly after arriving here, Steve got a job as a laborer similar to jobs he’d held in Chicago. He was shocked to learn that here he would earn more than he had ever earned before. After a year’s stay at the Dorothy Day Center, a friend told him about the programs at House of Charity and he has been a part of the HOC organization ever since.

Setting Goals for Independence

When Steve walked through the doors at House of Charity, his goals were to get clean, get his own apartment, and achieve all the things he had been striving for but never had the resources to attain. From his start in the permanent supportive housing program, to the help of the Day by Day treatment program, and through his current time living in his own apartment—with a second-time help from House of Charity—Steve knows that all he has accomplished is because he had goals. It’s the mantra he keeps repeating: “I’ve got to have goals.”

 

Without goals, Steve says, not only he, but anyone who walks through the doors of House of Charity, will get stuck. With no vision or support, there is no chance for success and independence. Steve’s client advocate, Kassandra, has helped Steve look at both where he has come from and where he is going, to look towards complete addiction-free independence.

 

Since coming to Minnesota, Steve has rebuilt relationships with his friends and family, most importantly, with his daughter. Steve speaks with pride about his daughter and what she is doing. He especially notes how much she is like him in her determination and attitude.

An Advocate for HOC

Steve has also become an avid advocate for House of Charity. He repeatedly says that he has only good things to say about it. The organization gave him hope and changed his life. And he wants other people to have that hope as well.
“There’s a lot of things that I lost while I was on drugs, and I’ve gained every last one back because of House of Charity. They gave me my life back.” To Steve, the hallways and rooms of House of Charity feel like a second home.

Even though he has maintained his sobriety and no longer lives at HOC, Steve still visits HOC often. His life changed for the better at HOC— he found hope and found a home. Steve has worked hard, held a steady job, and still occasionally needs help from House of Charity.

 

Join us as we help individuals find their way to independence.

Pulled Up By the Bootstraps

Work Harder. Try Harder.
Do Better.

These clichéd stigmas follow those in poverty in American culture. The thought is that poor people just need to pull themselves out of poverty—by their bootstraps, or the loops sewn atop boots to help pull them on. But is pulling yourself up and out of poverty all by yourself possible? Spend an hour with a homeless veteran; walk in the shoes of a single mother; wait in a day-labor line all morning. You might realize a reality in poverty that is very different than what you recognize by worn-out catch phrases. [Check out our “Ask the Expert” video series, with Jennifer and Terry to gain the perspective of those affected by poverty and homelessness.]

Factors Contributing to Poverty

Many different factors contribute to poverty. Adverse experiences to children, such as abuse, neglect, or parental incarceration place that young life on a difficult path. Adults can also encounter this path of poverty due to lack of opportunity, personal chemical dependency and mental health issues. However, laziness and apathy are rarely the cause of poverty. Carmen Rios, an author and advocate who grew up the child of a single mother struggling with poverty, remembers distinctly how often people accused her mother of not working hard enough and being the “cause of our faulty economy.”

In this land of plenty and equality, often those that need the most are left out. Over half of the children in America live in homes where their parents struggle to make ends meet.

A disproportionate number of working adults work two jobs. Many are under- or unemployed, people who struggle just to pay their day-to-day living costs. Two people of identical age and education may not have equal opportunities for advancement simply because one of them might lack the resources to continue education or to obtain the required skills for a professional position. Rarely is the solution to poverty a simple case of people needing to work harder.

Be the Bootstraps that Pull Up Individuals

As a culture, we should help those who are struggling with poverty. Other than government support, there are few accessible or relevant resources that allow individuals to climb out of poverty. We must stop perpetuating the myth that a person living in poverty is lazy and the simple solution is to work harder; because that is not always possible.

At House of Charity, we don’t expect people experiencing hunger and homelessness to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” We partner with those individuals and provide them with resources to create their very own bootstraps. And, if needed, we’ll pull them up when their boots have no straps.

bootstraps

Food centre meal user statistics

The Importance of Our Food Centre

In order to learn about our guests at House of Charity’s Food Centre, we survey the men and women on a quarterly basis. We ask simple questions to gain basic information about the guests’ lives and reasons for coming for meals there. We wanted to share a bit about how frequently our guests utilize the Food Centre.

 

The good news:
The Food Centre provides over 125,000 meals each year to hungry people.

 
The sad news:
125,000 individuals each year need help with finding a good meal.

 

Lawrence, a guest who eats with us 6 times per week, frames up the importance of the Food Centre for his life. “You know, I eat here all the time. Ya’ll truly do keep people fed and keep us alive.”

 

Food Centre Numbers

Food centre meal user statistics

Click the image for close-up details of graphic in a new window.

You can see that the numbers in the above graphic support Lawrence’s statement. The first chart illustrates that over half of our guests depend on House of Charity for meals at least three times per week. Then, looking more closely, we can see that in any given month nearly 90% of our diners eat with us at least once per week on average.

In the second chart, you can see how long people have been utilizing our meal service. With roughly 70% of guests visiting us for at least a year, and almost a quarter of guests coming for more than six years, it is safe to say that the Food Centre plays an essential role in the lives of our guests.

For Follow-up

In House of Charity’s next newsletter, we will take a look at the data we have collected about the employment status of Food Centre guests, because quite a few guests have indicated that they use the Food Centre meal facility on their way to, or on their way back from, work.

Here are a few more articles about food shelf use and hunger among the employed.

DiBlasio, Natalie. “Hunger in America: 1 in 7 Rely on Food Banks.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 17 Aug. 2014. Web. 29 May 2017. <https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/17/hunger-study-food/14195585/>.

“From Paycheck to Pantry: Hunger in Working America.” Feeding America. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2017. <http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/our-research/hunger-in-working-america/>.

HOC supports legislative agenda for available housing

Our 2017 Legislative Agenda

Icons for several groups that lobby for legislative action to benefit hosing

The 2017 Legislative Session is well underway. House of Charity supports the legislative agenda for “Homes for All,” “Prosperity for All,” and “Restore the Vote.”

Homes for All

The “Homes for All” initiative is pushing for two major initiatives:

2017 “Homes for All” Legislative Request

  • “Homes for All” requests an additional $30 million in the state budget for the full spectrum of housing needs and to strengthen Minnesota’s Housing Continuum: investments will prevent and end homelessness, promote affordable housing, and prepare homeowners. These investments help communities throughout the state address housing needs and build financial assets.
  • Homes for All also requests $100 million in bonds for housing. These investments provide critical funding to build and preserve affordable housing throughout the state. This would allow the state to build or preserve 3,000 homes for Minnesotans experiencing homelessness.

The Governor’s budget and bills in the House and Senate include funds to help individuals and families end their homelessness with services and housing that fits their need.

Prosperity for All

The “Prosperity for All” initiative is an appeal for two actions

  • Increase the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) cash assistance by $100. MFIP provides work support and temporary cash assistance for families working toward full-time employment. The MFIP funds have not increased in 30 years. The cost of living has certainly increased, but the support for families working toward employment has not.
  • Improve the Working Family Credit. The credit needs to be offered to more families, be increased, and include younger workers.

Restore the Vote

Restore the Vote is an effort to reinstate voting rights for ex-offenders on probation or parole.

We need your help! Call or e-mail your Legislator to let them know you want them to support the “Homes for All,” “Prosperity for All,” and “Restore the Vote” Legislative Agendas.

It’s easy to call and leave a voicemail or message with a staffer: “Hi, my name is _____________________ and I live in ____________(city). I strongly support the $100 million investment in bonds for housing through the Homes for All initiative. I’m calling to ask _____________ to support “Homes for All” and I want them to also include the MFIP cash assistance increase again in the 2017 budget. It’s been 30 years since MFIP cash assistance for low-income families has been increased. It is time to increase support. Thank you.”
To find out who represents you go to: http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/

What the Food Stamps Program Looks Like Now

chart of snap (food stamp) benefit per people in household

,HOC’s free meals at the Food Centre help meet the challenges faced by working families. The above statistics show why people struggle to feed their families on limited incomes, even when the head of household is working hard. For a family of four in Minnesota, the average cost of groceries per month is $900. For families with little or no stable income, that amount looks like an impossible obstacle to overcome. When money is tight, food is often last in a long list of expenses to pay out.  Housing costs often become the first priority for a tightly stretched dollar. As a result, many individuals and families come to places like the House of Charity Food Centre to help out just a little with their immediate food crisis.

Many of those people who visit House of Charity’s Food Centre qualify for and recieve food assistance. The program in Minnesota, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, can help people in bridging the gap. Often, however, this supplement is not enough to meet the needs of the family. This program, which used to be known as Food Stamps, offers about $200 a month in benefits per person. Based on the average cost of groceries for a family of four, this is far from sufficient to keep families, especially children, healthy. For this reason, many families end up at the Food Centre to supplement their food budget and get a good healthy meal.

 

If a family seeks help with food, whether through the Food Centre or SNAP, it doesn’t mean a lack of effort at their job. Many parents work long, hard hours just to be able to afford a house or rent for their family. A safe living situation. We at House of Charity are here to help them bridge the gap as they work toward complete sufficiency and independence.

 

For Further Information:

Visit the MN Department of Human Services SNAP page to gain more knowledge about the program and see what it takes to apply.      https://mn.gov/hds/SNAP

For a broader view of the program, visit the goverment benefits website. https://www.benefits.gov/benefits/SNAP

Photo of Terry, rebuilding life

Rebuilding Life with Humor and Wit

Terry, a recovering life

Terry’s was a life marked with unthinkable trauma, sadness, and loss. By the time he’d reached his current 84 years, he’d experienced more than most could fathom. From serving his country in the army, to surviving 30 Minnesota winters on the streets, Terry had encountered devastating life experiences, one after another. Each cut like a knife, slicing off a little more of his resilience. All these trials contributed to his experience of homelessness, but one episode stood apart from the rest, in his long journey of rebuilding life.

In 1985, Terry’s beloved dog, Cliff, was put down. This defining moment started his experience of homelessness. “The day I had my dog put down hurt me most. Cliff was the last vestige of my former life,” he said. Any memories of stability Terry had were tied to his pet. When Terry lost Cliff, he also lost the last remaining link to his past. He just gave up—on everything.

Rebuilding Life, One Piece at a Time

Terry lived on the streets for three decades. He says, “I put it off….I really didn’t want to come inside and have to live by someone else’s rules.” With his health and eyesight deteriorating rapidly, he knew it was no longer an option to continue as he had for the past 30 years.

He came to the Food Centre at least four times a week for his “sit-down and enjoyable” meal, saying, “Is it always my favorite dish? Of course not, but there’s always plenty of it.” He paused, and with a dead-pan expression stated, “And the price is always affordable.” This ever-present wit and his compassion for others makes Terry a favorite among House of Charity’s staff and volunteers.

Terry’s favorite audience are the students who volunteer at the Food Centre, of which he said with a grin, “They come in and they smile and like my jokes, but most importantly, they remind me of what I used to be like. At my age, to see them smile when they talk with me….” Shaking his head, he smiled, “Yah, that’s my favorite part.”

A Positive Mindset, Mixed with Humor

The power of purpose, activity, and laughter are the pillars upon which Terry’s life and survival are now built. This positive mindset is also the foundation upon which his legacy will rest. The support of established structures and regular routines are vital to Terry. He keeps himself busy in his free time visiting hospital patients, reading for the blind, and delivering hand-made bouquets.

Recently, Terry found permanent housing through a partnership between HOC and the Minnesota VA. Whenever possible, Terry supplements his diet at House of Charity’s Food Centre. He continues to use his experiences with homelessness to encourage and comfort others. Those going through similar experiences in their quest for rebuilding life find encouragement from his positive outlook.

Terry’s journey through homelessness is a testament to us all. Terry’s perseverance and the power of keeping a positive mindset no matter how dark the situation may be are an encouragement to all.

 

Photo of Melvin, who partners with House of Charity for transformation in his life.

A Partner in Transformational Action


Melvin’s story tells of his partnership with House of Charity in his life transformation:

“There comes a time when you realize whatever cycle you have been in needs to stop. Stay clean. Go to school. Do whatever you need to do. Find programs like House of Charity.”

For over 20 years, Melvin worked as a professional bill collector, a job that demanded a lot of him emotionally. The byproduct of his job was high stress: an emotional toll that came from having to deal with highly sensitive situations each day. As a result Melvin started abusing crack cocaine and marijuana in an attempt to escape from the daily pressures that came with his work.

At this point in his life he left his job and moved to Florida, but there his drug use only escalated. He went through treatment programs several times without sobriety ever truly sticking. After a combination of bad life choices involving relationships and personal connections that kept leading him away from his goals, Melvin finally resolved to commit to his sobriety and moved back to Minnesota to face his demons.

New Beginnings Rooted in Optimism

Seemingly having nowhere else to turn, Melvin came to Minneapolis and House of Charity. He was admitted to HOC’s Day by Day Outpatient Chemical Dependency Treatment Program. After completing treatment, Melvin took back his life with the help of his counselors and many other staff members.

Now fully sober and stable, Melvin has landed on a new career path for himself and has enrolled in technical vocation training to become a community health worker and, eventually, a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant). His long-term goal is to be both so that he can help people in more than one place.

Transformation of Pain into Positive Action

Melvin’s ultimate mission was always to get clean, stay clean, and find a job; and through his hard work and unwavering focus, he is achieving far more than that. By taking back his life from his addiction, he has not only changed his life, but he has discovered that he also has the potential to save others.

House of Charity stood alongside Melvin when he needed it, and Melvin is determined to do the same for others. “The advice I give folks in my situation,” he says, “is to stay strong in what you are doing. You don’t want to keep falling. There comes a time when you realize whatever cycle you have been in needs to stop. Stay clean. Go to school. Do whatever you need to do. Find programs like House of Charity.”

Melvin is proud of his hard-earned growth and stability. He has been in his apartment for almost two years and continues to do the right thing. “I will always thank House of Charity for the impact they made on my life. This is a powerful program of transformation. And this is much better than other programs I’ve heard about. They really do try to help you.”

sustainable recovery for a long-time client of House of Charity

A Path to Sustainable Recovery

sustainable recovery for a long-time client of House of Charity

 

One of the people connected with House of Charity the longest isn’t an employee, it’s a client! We sat down with Kyle to talk about his personal journey on the path for a sustainable recovery, and also how House of Charity has grown over the years.

 

Q: When did you first use services at House of Charity?

“Around 2006, House of Charity converted their main building to serve more people in a Group Residential Housing setting and I’m pretty sure I was the first person in that program. In 2012, when the Housing First program started, I was one of the first people in that program too, so I guess you could call me the House of Charity resident guinea pig. All new programs are tested for safety and efficacy by me!” Kyle shares with a smile.

Q: You just used the word efficacy correctly. Is it fair to say there is higher education in your background?

“I was able to acquire a Bachelor of Science in Business Finance from the University of Minnesota. After that, I received an MBA from the University of Arizona. Mental illness doesn’t just strike the poor and uneducated and sometimes—as with me—it’s lifelong. Now I see a psychiatrist, and I have a fantastic primary care physician, but sometimes I only receive an hour a month on their schedule. That’s where my House of Charity case manager comes in. I can call her when I need to, and since she’s familiar with my case, she can help with insight, advice and assist with my needs.”

While Kyle admits to being somewhat reticent to be interviewed, he feels strongly that mental illness must be addressed, and not ignored.

“The Centers for Disease Control recently stated that twenty percent of Americans will face mental illness at some point in their lives, so even if it doesn’t personally touch you it WILL affect you in some way, right? We need to change the stigma that’s associated with mental illness.”

The topics of drug use, addiction and mental illness arose, and Kyle continued to share his perspectives about achieving sustainable recovery.

“It doesn’t surprise me that people who are in a bad place want to escape, and that they get into drugs because that’s what we’ve traditionally used drugs for, to escape.” Kyle adds, “Because we don’t fully understand drug addiction, we’ve come to think of it as a moral failing, but a few hundred years ago if a person got sick it was thought it was because they had done something wrong. Until we get past this idea that it is a failing, people are going to hide it. And if we hide it, how are we going to treat it?”

With one final thought, Kyle wanted to leave his impression of House of Charity on his life in a simple way…

“If they can ‘fix’ me, they can ‘fix’ anybody!”