The Power of Empowerment: Tika’s Story

How many times have you been homeless? For most of us, that answer would be never. We have never experienced the fear of not knowing where we’ll sleep at night. We’ll never understand the shame of experiencing something that is surrounded by stigma.
Tika has experienced that three times. Three times she has found herself with no place to call home.
Tika could choose to be bitter because of what life continues to throw at her. Instead, she has chosen empowerment. By raising her voice, and the voices of those in similar situations, through the written word, Tika has created change. She started with a simple letter, which turned into a newsletter, which will, hopefully, someday turn into a newspaper. She wants this newspaper to be a resource for all individuals experiencing homelessness. Tika understands how hard it is to find the right resources when you don’t know where to look. She understands the fear of not knowing what kind of help will be available to her. She wants to take that fear away. By publishing a newspaper, Tika would provide something for men and women that would help them know that they are not alone, that what they are experiencing is not permanent or wrong.
The first time Tika found herself without a home, she had two young boys. She described that experience as far more frightening and embarrassing. First, because she had two children who were forced to experience homelessness with her. Second, because she didn’t know what her options were. Having never been homeless before, Tika did not know anything about the programs or resources available to her. She didn’t know where to go and she had no connections to other people in her new, if unwanted, community.
That’s why she cares so much about spreading knowledge. If she can help just a few people be less afraid of their situation, Tika will be happy. Her mission is just to provide the resource.
“Maybe they’ll just use it as a blanket. It doesn’t matter.”
What matters is that Tika is using her voice, her skills, her passion to create change. And because she has experienced, and is still experiencing, homelessness right along with them, people are willing to listen.
“We can speak for ourselves and we can let people know that ‘I’m not a number, I’m a person.’ We don’t want this to be our life, we don’t want to be stuck here, we don’t want to feel like we’re stuck here, we’re going to make it the best we can while we’re here.
Tika is in the midst of her third struggle with homelessness. As is it with so many individuals, homelessness doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you have a car. It doesn’t even always matter if you have a job. Sometimes, the cost of living is just too high. You lose your home.
Recently, Tika was denied SSI and disability support, something she had been counting on despite always believing a person should have a ‘plan B’. But she refuses to wallow in her disappointment. That is why she started the newsletter for other clients, and that’s why she will eventually start a newspaper.
The work we do, every moment spent providing food and housing and treatment for our neighbors, it all means so much less if we don’t also empower the men and women we work with. Tika saw a need, she realized that the people in her community, while being cared for, weren’t being empowered. By starting her newsletter and hopefully a streets newspaper, Tika is giving the power back to those from whom it has been taken. She is giving the voices back to the silent sufferers. Will you help us empower people like Tika, who is making far more change in the community that we could even dream up?

The Power of a Button

The power of a purple button. You’re thinking to yourself, how does a purple button have any power? I witnessed first-hand how two purple buttons brought a grown man named Tony, to tears. Tears of joy because his favorite shirt that he’d had for years and was missing two purple buttons, was finally repaired. He had held on to that shirt hoping he would once again be able to wear it. A few months ago was that night.
The power of two purple buttons turned this man’s whole day around. I knew nothing of his struggles, but I knew that purple shirt mattered to him greatly. I did learn he had worked in the automobile industry and was a proud veteran. A table full of volunteer sewers that night saw nothing but a man who had proudly served his country and so desperately wanted to wear his favorite shirt again.
I realized early on that clothing evoked an emotional connection for people. Especially when someone is struggling with overcoming an addiction or battling mental health issues. Sometimes a favorite shirt can get you through a tough day.
We mend more than clothes at Mobile Menders. We help mend the soul. We let people know that they matter and their clothes matter. We allow them to share their stories with us and vice versa. We’re building community and sharing stories and there’s an important conversation going on.
So, if you think one person can’t make a difference, I beg you to think again. Because I witnessed it first hand that night.

After founder Michelle Ooley realized there was a dire need for clothes mending in the homeless community, she organized a group of volunteers to hold events offering their skills and time to repair clothes for those in need. Since its founding in June of 2017, the Mobile Menders have grown to more than 200 volunteers and have served countless individuals. The change they have made in such a short time is enourmous. They served 151 people in the first three months of 2018 and repaired 287 items.
We are reminded time and again of the power of one person who is willing to give generously of their times and skills and Michelle and her crew demonstrate that so clearly.
We are so grateful for the Mobile Menders and are continually amazed at the HUGE impact they have on our clients and in turn on us as we watch them give so generously to the people we serve.
Learn more about the Mobile Menders on Facebook or their website: mobilemenders.weebly.com

A Note from Todd

Todd joined House of Charity as our Chief Program Officer in February. Before that, he worked at Pride Institute for 11 years, the last five of which he served as the Director of Clinical Services.

I’ve been asked by many people “Why do you want to work at House of Charity?” The answer is deeply personal, and until now, I haven’t shared this with many people. During the summer of 2017, I received news that my younger sister’s cancer had returned after almost four years of remission. There was nothing else that could be done for her; she
needed to prepare for her death. Throughout her dying process, she demonstrated dignity, courage, integrity, and she never, ever gave up hope that she would beat her cancer. As a person in recovery from substance abuse and mental health issues, she never compromised her recovery even during this overwhelming time. On November 16, 2017, she passed quietly in the early morning with her two sons and our parents at her side.

When she passed, she had eight years of recovery and through her recovery journey, touched many, many lives. My sister’s journey inspired me to evaluate my own life. I knew that I needed to re-establish and renew my sense of meaning and purpose in all
areas of my life, including my vocation. My sister is truly the person that gave me the courage to “take a leap of faith” and leave my job of over 11 years where I was well
established.

“Feed those in need, house those experiencing homelessness and empower individuals to achieve independence.” The HOC mission statement resonated with me and profoundly moved me. It is a mission statement so basic, but filled with hope and the potential for changing lives. When human beings don’t have their basic needs met, life feels hostile, unsafe, and at times, hopeless. Life becomes a matter of survival. And I believe all people deserve not just to survive but to thrive. I knew I had to be a part of something bigger than myself, where I believed my skills and talents would be utilized for the good of
humankind.

My hopes and goals as a part of House of Charity are to continue to provide
outstanding, person-centered and trauma responsive services to the men and women we serve. House of Charity is an expert in the field and I want to build upon this expertise. I want the world to know who House of Charity is and what we do! This includes
increasing and expanding services, developing housing and finding creative ways to find housing for clients, and reaching more people who can benefit from involvement with House of Charity. Additionally, I want to continue to build collaborative relationships with our community so that we can all work together to affect change and inspire hope on an individual, organizational, community, and societal level. I am thrilled to be a part of the House of Charity family where hope and change is created and lived every day!

Exciting Progress on our Capital Campaign

House of Charity has raised $11 million, enough funds to begin construction of the housing building as soon as spring of 2019!
With the October 2017 approval of $8 million in funds from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency restricted to housing, we have the funds to build 61 studio apartments for people experiencing long-term homelessness, the foundation of our ambitious expansion.
We are thrilled to receive the full housing funding for construction of the first building of our new facilities! Because the funds were restricted to housing, we are taking some time to redesign the second phase which includes the Food Centre, outpatient addiction and mental health program, and new offices for our case managers and our administration.

Advocacy: Homeless Day on the Hill 2018

On March 6, a team of 18 people from House of Charity joined over 1000 other individuals at the state Capitol to advocate for affordable housing. Staff, clients (a first for us), and board members met with their legislators to talk about the importance of supporting Minnesota’s
housing continuum by emphasizing the
importance of funds that will provide:
1.  Matching fund for communities to create and resource a Local Housing Trust Fund
2.  Funding for Homework Starts at Home to support students of homeless and highly mobile families
3.  Investments to prevent homelessness through rental assistance
4.  Preservation and building of over 3,000 units of housing for the lowest income Minnesotans
5.  Housing Infrastruture Bonds that will promote homeownership through community land trusts
And so much more

 

It is so important that we raise our voices to advocate for those who cannot.

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

Community as Part of Recovery

written by Kyle Lipinski, Women’s Counselor and MICD Intern

 

As fall approaches, I find myself reflecting on the kindness I can expect from strangers as cold season looms nearer. When I have a cold, I can expect offers of cough drops, tissues, and advice. I will receive condolences and well-wishes. My coworkers will encourage me to stay home and take care of myself until the worst of my symptoms subside. A cold is an illness that most people feel comfortable supporting someone through. Their typically short duration, known cause, and familiar presence seem to breed a sense of empathy.
However, when the cause of illness is indeterminable, caused by trauma, or by genetics, that community often disappears. When illness is misunderstood, mislabeled, or a life-long series of recovery and relapses, support networks may never return.
When these support networks begin to waiver, or when an individual and their support network is pushed beyond their capacity to cope, the importance of treatment is highlighted. Over forty-three million Americans or 1 in 5 suffer from a mental illness, and only 41% of these individuals will receive treatment. Twenty million Americans are living with a substance use disorder, and up to 90% of them will not receive the treatment they need to recover. Individuals living with untreated mental health conditions and substance use disorders are at higher risk for chronic illness, homelessness and shortened life expectancies. But recovery is possible with comprehensive support.
In our Day by Day treatment programs, clients practice coping skills, learn how to advocate for themselves, and make strides towards creating a life worth living every day. But the most important thing that treatment provides individuals
who suffer from mental illness and chemical dependency is a sense of unconditional support. They may come into the treatment center alone, but they leave knowing they are now part of a larger community that shares the struggles they face daily. This comes from the helping professionals who can aid them in finding resources and developing new skill sets, and from peers. Day by Day brings together those in need with the people who can offer the support and empathy that they need to vastly improve their overall quality of life. Everyone just needs the chance and the opportunity to connect.

To learn more about our treatment programs, visit our website: www.houseofcharity.org/ resources/dependency-illness-treatment

 

Sources:
National Alliance on Mental Illness . (n.d.). Mental Health by the Numbers . Retrieved August 23, 2017, from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration . (n.d.). Co-occurring Disorders. Retrieved August 23, 2017, from https://www.samhsa.gov/disorders/co-occurring

Make Your Voice Heard: Protect Our Homes

As President Trump and Congress continue to work toward finalizing the 2018 budget, the homeless, and those who advocate for the
homeless, look on in fear.
The proposed budget for 2018, which could go into effect on October 1, has cuts which would be devastating to people experiencing
homelessnes and hunger every day.
The proposed cuts would remove 6.2 billion dollars from the Housing and Urban Development section of funding.
This reduction also doesn’t speak well for the future, as the proposed spending speaks very clearly of the priorities of our current administration.
The budget is supposed to be approved on October 1, but it has been 20 years since the last budget was passed on schedule. We still have time to make a change!
Will you help us as we move to stop this change that will so severly effect those we are fighting to help? We need you to help as we tell our lawmakers and president why this change will damage our cities and cause setback in so much of the work we have already done. Join us.
Protect our homes.

Facebook: facebook.com/ProtectHomes/
Twitter: @Protect_Homes
Hashtags: #ProtectOurHomes #ProtectHousing

For more info, email Anna:
a.cisewski@houseofcharity.org