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!”

Jennifer, from the "2016 Ask the Expert videos

Featured in PollenMidwest.org

House of Charity is highlighted on the www.pollenmidwest.org website. Pollen “helps people break down barriers to build better connected communities.”  See story and more about Pollen at:  https://www.pollenmidwest.org/opportunities/house-of-charity/

Expanding Hope for the Homeless

Sep 6, 2016

Words by Meher Khanhouseofcharity_-74-alt-sm-jennifer

 

“How would your life change if you got sick? If medical couldn’t cover your bills? If you had to give all your money to medical? What would you do? Would you know where to go for help? Would you ask for help?”

Before her injury, Jennifer never could have imagined herself homeless. “I knew homelessness existed, but I guess I just didn’t give it any thought, and if I did, it was like, ‘Why are they homeless? They can work. They look like they can work.’ But it’s more than what you look like.” Just like in Jennifer’s situation, it could happen to anyone, at any time, and for any reason.

Jennifer was working three jobs when a back injury, exacerbated by the physical demands of her job in healthcare, led to a broken back and an inability to work. As her medical bills piled up, she found herself out of a home and living in her car.

“We’re paychecks away from the same situation,” says Evelyn Combs, Client Advocate Director.

It took Jennifer a long time before she could ask for help. After trying several shelters, she was more inclined to sleep on the street than face the conditions within those walls. Then one day, as she drove past House of Charity, something told her she should go inside. She had no idea what it was or what services they provided; she only knew that she needed to get inside before she froze to death. An hour later, she circled back and walked through the door.

House of Charity

For many people experiencing homelessness, pride often gets in the way of asking for help. In order to get out of the situation she was in, Jennifer had to ask for help, and for somebody who had been independently supporting herself, that was a difficult task. But House of Charity takes a unique approach with each of its clients who walk through the door.

“They made me feel like I was worthy of being here. ‘Yes we know you’re homeless…That doesn’t make you ugly, that doesn’t make you somebody else.’ Once they broke that barrier, that’s when I felt like ‘Ok, they’re really gonna help me.’ The next step was changing my attitude, and the following step was learning what I’m getting ready to do.” By addressing Jennifer’s internal struggles, House of Charity opened her up to not only surviving, but also progressing and thriving.

House of Charity is so much more than a charity or a shelter. Under one roof, there are services to address mental, physical, and emotional concerns, plus a highly qualified and invested staff who is willing to reach beyond his or her scope of work to find help and answers.

 

“I’ve never gotten an ‘I can’t help you.’ Even when I first came here and there was no room, they told me they’d get me in when they could.”

Equally important to the services House of Charity provides is the network it’s helped to create. “Community building and networking is important because we can’t do everything here, but it’s important to know where to send people to get help,” says Evelyn. “After the economy failed, a lot of resources went away. It was important for staff to know where to send people, or that an [organization’s] address was valid, because sometimes it takes somebody’s last $2 to get to that place.”

Once Jennifer was ready for the next step, House of Charity had even more resources to help her get there. Jennifer tapped into House of Charity’s other services including their Food Centre, other food shelves, doctors, and disability.

Food Centre

“My case manager was like a mini therapist; I used her ear and her professionalism to get some things off of my chest. I used their classes: financial budgeting, how to be a good neighbor, how to sign a lease, what an addendum to a lease was. I felt pretty damn smart.” The next hurdle for Jennifer, one which she never expected when she walked through the door of House of Charity, was finding an apartment.

Jennifer’s case manager was with her every step of the way during her housing search. Having the support of House of Charity was critical; as barriers to obtaining housing came up, House of Charity was there to tell Jennifer why something didn’t work out, and went one step further to help her address that barrier and prepare for the next search.

“The day I went to look at my apartment and I had my case manager with me, it was incredible. She vouched for me and I was accepted. Not only are they present, but they’re advocating on your behalf, and they know you.”

As of today, Jennifer has been in her apartment for three years and continues to use House of Charity’s services to progress and thrive.

“I’m getting there. I’m a work in progress. I love the independence, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do within myself, mentally, within my community, but I have that support.” When asked what kind of community House of Charity builds, Jennifer’s answer is simple:

 

“It looks like success. It looks like happy people, independent people. It’s a beautiful sight to see.”


House of Charity is so proud of Jennifer and what she has accomplished. She is a true testament to the spirit of hope and a better tomorrow. It is with that spirit of hope House of Charity is pleased to announce its Expanding Hope Campaign for a new building and expansion of services. Please visit HouseofCharity.org and consider making a donation to help transform the lives of others like Jennifer.

Posted by Pollen on Sep 6, 2016
Rodney from Spring Newsletter

Rodney’s Story

NEWS FROM THE HEART OF THE CITY

Rodney’s Story: Transforming Assumptions

Growing up in the small town of Middleton, in rural Ohio, Rodney struggled with addiction for most of his life.

“Everywhere I went to try to run away from my drug issues, they just followed me.”

Staying clean was an ongoing challenge. During the week he maintained the appearance of control, but by the weekend he was back to partying and using, finding himself penniless by Monday morning. His denial of his addictions kept him from changing. After repeating this cycle over and over Rodney accepted that he needed to change his life trajectory.

“I never saw myself as a ‘drug addict.’ I never got kicked out of a program—in fact, I completed all three—but I was always in denial of my addictions; I would always say, ‘I can stop using,’ but I never could.”

With no treatment centers near his hometown in Ohio, Rodney investigated treatment programs in Minnesota. After two years in different treatment programs in Minnesota, he came to the House of Charity’s Day-by-Day Outpatient Treatment Program where he was accepted into treatment and became a resident in our Transitional Housing Program. House of Charity not only provides temporary housing and treatment but also the opportunity for recovering individuals to rent an apartment and take the first steps toward real independence.

“I just wanted something different; I wanted my life to change, and it has. I owe it all to coming to Minnesota and the treatment I received.”

Rodney transitioned into the Housing First Permanent Supportive Housing Program after completion of the three-step program, eventually moving from the treatment and transitional housing program into his own apartment. He said he owes his success to the staff at House of Charity—particularly his case manager who really invested in his recovery. Even at his lowest points of recovery, when he couldn’t even envision his future, he said House of Charity staff helped him to keep his focus clear and his goal of sobriety in sight.

“Getting sober isn’t a streamlined thing, you have to have the will and the patience to know that it will come, but you have to want it. And I’m not done.

Now living in his own home in a Minneapolis suburb, Rodney is actively pursuing his degree in social work at a local technical college with the long-term hope of being able to help others in Ohio with the same kind of support and help that House of Charity provided to him in his recovery. He is grateful to House of Charity for their help in guiding him to independence and finding a dream and passion to help others.

“I really appreciate House of Charity. It only gets better, and now I feel it. I know it’s going to get better.”

House of CHarity Heart

Edmund’s Story: Life and Lessons

“I got to see and learn a lot during my travels.” From Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and finally to Minnesota; Edmund has been many places and seen many things. Still his vivaciousness for life is infectious. Edmund’s story starts in 1988.

My mom passed away when I was 17 years old, and I guess that’s really when my homelessness started. I was in the house alone and without guidance I turned to partying.”

Bills started to pile up and finally his sister took over the house. The next ten years Edmund describes as “wild”. Even during this time Edmund knew this was not the life he wanted to lead and that addiction did not define him.

“It was like, man, this is not me. Nobody knows who I am now; I don’t even know who I am now. An addict, no, I’m not an addict. I’m better than this.”

Edmund decided to go home and two years later took a job with the lumber yard that brought him to Minnesota. Unfortunately the lumber yard closed its doors and Edmund found himself back on the streets.

This time was different for Edmund. His first winter here he noticed how clean Minneapolis was and appreciated the helping hand Minnesota offered.

“I took the opportunity to say, I’m going to stay here, I’m going to do better here.”

A change of heart and willingness to better his life unfortunately was not enough. For a few more years Edmund struggled in and out of overnight shelters and treatment centers. From 2008 to 2012 Edmund tried four to five different treatment centers.

[quote]In 2012 Edmund came to House of Charity. He credits House of Charity with helping him get back on his feet.[/quote]

“I finally settled down my heart when I got into the House of Charity.”

Edmund stayed at House of Charity for 18 months and in March of 2014 entered the Housing First program. He now has a one bedroom apartment and in 2013 started school at a local community technical college. Edmund says,

“House of Charity really was the turning point, when I came here. I made it through, and really life is just beginning.”

Edmund is working toward an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts and plans to transfer to a state university to pursue a Bachelor Degree in Social Work.

“I think about all the counseling I have received over the years, and I just want to make a difference. Hopefully I can reach one person at a time.”

Edmund’s experience at House of Charity has given him the tools to think about the decisions he makes and navigate hardships when they occur.

“Even though I may not create the hardships I have to learn how to deal with them as they come. If I can deal with them wholesomely, I’ll make it through.”

Edmund’s Housing First Advocate is a believer in taking stock of small accomplishments to realize your full potential. Edmund exemplifies this motto. Since Edmund’s time with House of Charity he takes on life one step at a time.

“I believe that I am still at a certain level of “homelessness”. I’m not self-sustained; until I’m there I will always feel a little bit “homeless”. I have a stepping stone and some breathing room and I’m moving in a wholesome direction. The day is coming to where I can call up the State and say “wow, I’m okay”.”

Edmund wants to encourage House of Charity to stand by their mission statement. He believes in what House of Charity does. He believes House of Charity is here to encourage people and wants to let House of Charity know how much that means to him and to other people he knows.

“Your life doesn’t have to end because you’re homeless. There is a way back. I understand hardships are going to continue to come. Because of House of Charity, I now have the tools to say this is a hardship, I can get through this. I got through the gutter, I can get through this.”

Moving Forward with Determination and Gratitude: Jennifer’s Story

I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for House of Charity.  My family would have buried me two years ago—I would have frozen to death in my car.”

Jennifer had been living in her car for two years before finally asking for help from her primary care physician who referred her to House of Charity. About eight years ago, Jennifer suffered a horrible accident. She was out shopping for last-minute stocking stuffers for Christmas when a drunk driver sped through the Walgreens’ parking lot, striking her as she was walking to her car. She was crushed up against another car. After suffering severe trauma to her body, especially her back, Jennifer was released from the hospital after a few days and returned to work.

Jennifer worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at two assisted-living facilities for the elderly, a field she loved and had been working in for 18 years. She continued to work her regular schedules at both jobs and ignored the constant pain she continued to experience since the accident.

A few years later, Jennifer slipped and fell on concrete, landing on her back. This new injury compounded with her previous injury that never healed forced Jennifer to have necessary back surgery. Jennifer was now disabled and could not work. With her limited disability income, she lost her home. She moved what furniture she could in to storage and began living in her car.

In the winter of 2012, Jennifer knew she needed help. Jennifer admits to being hesitant at first to ask for help and then even more so when it came time to actually set foot in House of Charity. She drove by and suddenly felt compelled to come in. She said that right off the bat, she was welcomed and treated with compassion and respect from House of Charity staff . There were not any openings for Jennifer right away, but a month later, the Intake Coordinator called her and notified her that there was a place for her if she still needed a place to stay. The next day, Jennifer moved in to House of Charity. She quickly moved from our transitional housing residence to her own apartment in our Housing First program. Jennifer began working with her Case Manager in our Transitional Housing Program and began taking Housing First classes right away. In the five-course series, she learned about rental leases and landlord/renter relations, budgeting, how to be a good neighbor, and the challenges of living alone. She was determined to get on her feet, get her own place, and start living life again. She appreciated her Case Manager’s open door policy and how she went to bat for her when it came time to find Jennifer an apartment. Jennifer was in our Transitional Housing Program for five months before moving on to our Housing First Program.

Jennifer has a great relationship with her Housing First Advocate. They meet weekly and since Jennifer can no longer drive, her Advocate also goes above and beyond by taking her to regular doctor’s appointments. Jennifer said that if she didn’t have the support of her Advocate along with her housing, she would not have been able to make it. Her Advocate also helps Jennifer deal with her mental health and self-esteem issues; she helps her find resources, with activities of daily living, and with goal-setting. Currently, Jennifer, with the support of her Housing First Advocate, is exploring where to go from here and how to change professions. Jennifer is devastated by the fact that she cannot physically perform the work that she enjoyed doing for so many years as a Certified Nursing Assistant. It has been difficult to figure out employment as Jennifer can neither sit nor stand for long periods of time and has to walk with a cane. Jennifer would like to continue to work in healthcare and is looking in to relative education and training options. She is currently coming up on her one year anniversary of being in her own apartment.

Jennifer remains grateful to House of Charity and optimistic for the future. The advice she gives to those in similar situations that she was in is to ask for help and remember that House of Charity doesn’t want you to fail.

“It can be so simple,” she says, “take the classes that they offer, meet with your Case Manager/Advocate, do the paperwork, and just follow the rules…you’ll be on your feet in no time.”