3-15-19: Jimmie’s Story

We have a special story for you! Several years ago we spoke with Jimmie and we got to talk to him just a few weeks ago! It’s so amazing to have clients come back and share their continued success with us.

Read below to see Jimmie’s story as he told to us several years ago and then read his update at the bottom!

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For over 20 years, Jimmie was plagued by his addiction to alcohol and drugs. As a high-functioning addict, he was somehow able to hold the same job during those two decades, but as with most long-term addicts, his drug abuse finally eroded his ability to perform on the job and he was eventually fired as a result of his performance. It was at this low point that Jimmie finally realized that his addiction had overtaken his life and sought help.

An Evolution from Addiction to Awakening

Jimmie’s road to recovery was not a straight one. He went through treatment twice before finally coming to House of Charity. And it was here that he was finally able to take his life back.

Now Jimmie is a full-time student at MCTC and is studying addiction counseling. He is determined to complete his education with straight A’s. He knows firsthand that drug and alcohol addiction is common among people experiencing homelessness, and after seeing the impact his counselor had on his life, Jimmie realized that he could play a significant role in perpetuating the circle of recovery for others like him.

Another result of his newfound sobriety, he rediscovered his enjoyment for acting, one of the many hobbies he had in high school which were lost amidst his addiction. In fact, he recently auditioned for an MCTC school production and got the part!

A Future that’s Bright with Hope

By taking back his life from his addiction, Jimmie has been able to not only change his life, but to channel his life in a way that has the potential to save others. His goal is to have a direct and positive impact on people whose situations he understands. House of Charity stood alongside Jimmie when he needed it and Jimmie is stepping up to do the same.

“I realize now, but I’ve always known, only I have control over what goes on in my life, more than anybody else. Becoming empowered has been both the hardest and the best part of conquering my addiction. I want to cheer on other people and tell them, ‘you can do that! You have the ability within you.’”

Jimmie’s story illustrates how even at your lowest point of addiction, if you are willing to take ownership of your recovery, recognize the need for that structure, and hold yourself accountable to maintaining that structure, you can overcome just about anything. Jimmie’s life is full of promise now, and he says he couldn’t have done it without the consistency and support of House of Charity.

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Despite a relapse, Jimmie is better than ever! He is again attending MCTC to obtain his Bachelor’s, and he hopes eventually Master’s, in addiction counseling. He has a nearly perfect GPA and is a part of groups and clubs at school. He is staying focused by attending church and regularly visiting a mental health center.

He has his own home and Jimmie says that independence can either help or hinder recovery. He has chosen to let it help. Jimmie says that being able to go home every night, lock his own door, and cook his own food in his own kitchen has been a good reminder of what he stands to loose if he starts using again.

His home, school and social groups are his foundation and he’s confident of his future where he can use his past experiences and what he’s learning now to help others.

“When I was a kid, people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up and I always answered, ‘I want to help people.’ Well now I’ve found a way to do that.”

3-8-19: Housing is too expensive

Written by Nicole L., community engagement coordinator.

There’s not a single US state where a minimum wage worker can afford a two-bedroom rental.

Immediately you might be thinking, why do you need a two-bedroom? What about a one- bedroom?

As highlighted in the article linked below, on average, workers still need to earn $17.90 an hour to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment (current minimum wage is $7.25). In only 22 out of 3,000 counties nationwide could workers earning minimum wage afford to rent a one-bedroom, the NLIHC says.

But why do we even ask those questions? Why does someone working full time need to answer questions like that? “Do you really need…”

Instead of looking at the systems keeping affordable housing out of the reach of so many, we blame the decisions of those at the bottom- those already making impossible choices, while working 53 hours a week to afford their rent.

For example, according to the 2017 report on Housing from the Minnesota Housing Partnership, in Minnesota, 546,000 households — more than 1 in 4 Minnesota households — pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, putting them at risk of being unable to afford basic needs like food and medicine. This includes nearly 60% of seniors, who rent, and 84% of renters and 78% of owners who earn less than $20,000 per year.

These are families that, every month, have to make the impossible choice between food, medicine and housing. We can try to convince ourselves that personal choices are the cause of poverty. But we would be wrong.

“Do you really need…” cannot be followed by food, medicine or rent.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/14/us/minimum-wage-2-bedroom-trnd/index.html?fbclid=IwAR0x2cGLqhbeLMfjoB-Y1zZ21hkL9I9s6ixxofwOPUyrxVfV_XLrnUfJe1w

3-1-19: Our work is everyone’s work

At a recent House of Charity event, Dan Collison, director of Downtown Partnerships, spoke. The following was part of what he said and we think it’s important to be reminded of this once in a while:

Poverty is everyone’s work. Recovery is everyone’s work. Housing is everyone’s work. Removing barriers to long term sustainability is everyone’s work. And, yet not everyone is willing to participate in the work and some just wish that someone else will attend to the needs of our world. It was comedian Lily Tomlin who once said “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized that I was somebody.” It was author and television producer Shonda Rhimes who said “You can waste your lives drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them.”

The work we do isn’t just for the licensed. It isn’t just for the nonprofits. Generosity is for everyone. Compassion is for everyone. Advocacy is for everyone.

You voice and experience and philanthropy is just as important as the work we do every day. Without you, our work means less.

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together!”

Those words, spoken by Australian activist Lila Watson, capture why it is that we need you. There is no us and them, only us. When we take care of those around us, everyone benefits. Property values increase when affordable housing is available in every community, children do better in school when they have a stable home and a full belly, adults experience more success in work and education when their mental health needs are met.

When services like those we provide are available to all, everyone benefits.

2-22-19: What does affordable housing mean?

We talk a lot about affordable housing at House of Charity. And we mention it a lot when we talk to you. Affordable housing is a vital part of the work we do because it enables individuals to find, and keep, a home.

Every year, the Metropolitan Council surveys the state to find out about projects and efforts made to improve the availability of affordable housing. Below is that report.

2-14-19: Altruism

Altruism

Merriam Webster defines altruism as “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others or charitable acts motivated purely by altruism.”

Many of us learned during our basic psychology classes that in many cases, people who appear to be altruistic are actually receiving some type of reward i.e. the good feelings that come with making a difference or even saving a life.

The underlying reasons behind altruism, as well as the question of whether there is truly such a thing as “pure” altruism, are two issues hotly contested by social psychologists. Do we ever engage in helping others for truly altruistic reasons, or are there hidden benefits to ourselves that guide our altruistic behaviors? https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-altruism-2794828

More recent research though has found through the newer technology in brain scans that in fact there are differences in the brains of people who show truly altruistic behaviors, such as jumping in front of trains to save someone or getting between an armed terrorist and their intended victims. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/08/science-good-evil-charlottesville/

This seems to be seen clearly both among those experiencing homelessness and those working to end it. We see often persons who are in the midst of crisis with no permanent home or steady income going out of their way to help others who may not even be as badly off at the moment. People giving up half of their scarce food or assisting someone in getting resources or safety stemming from their lived experiences.

A recent Ted Talk podcast discusses that we can even find altruism within animals with certain animals such as dogs clearly committing acts of altruism without any possibility for a perceived reward. https://www.npr.org/2017/05/26/529957471/abigail-marsh-are-we-wired-to-be-altruistic

Sure, there are many who show up to work and volunteer within the homeless community who are doing so for alternative reasons such as a paycheck or a request from their employer. But they never last long and without that true sense of altruism and empathy never truly receive the rewards they are seeking.

We are truly grateful for our community of altruistic individuals and know that we are all better and safer because of them.

1-31-19: It’s (dangerously) cold out there, folks

In the past two days, we’ve hit almost record low temps. What have you done to stay safe as this polar vortex has barreled its way through the upper Midwest?

Most of us were able to plan ahead, dig out our extra cold-weather gear that wasn’t really needed until now. We started our cars (with fingers crossed) well before we needed to leave. We ran water just so our pipes wouldn’t freeze and parked as close to the front door of the office as possible.

We were safe and warm.

But for the approximately 10,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in Minnesota, that wasn’t necessarily an option. About 80% of those people had some short of shelter, whether in an emergency shelter or a transitional housing program. But almost 2,000 people have struggled to survive this deep-freeze unsheltered.

No matter what time of the year it is, being homeless is dangerous. Losing your home means a lot more than just losing your home. It’s a loss of safety, security and dignity. It means being subject to a whole new world of judgement, stigma and danger. Individuals experiencing homelessness are more likely to be subjected to violence, become mentally ill and become seriously injured or sick.

And the harsh temperatures Minnesota is currently experiencing only increases the dangers.

Shelters, places of worship and government programs are doing everything they can to help our homeless neighbors survive this winter.

Hennepin County has shared a list of emergency shelters with their doors open. United Way and Lyft have partnered to provide free rides through February 1st. Bus drivers have been instructed to allow individuals to stay on board to keep warm if they’re not being disruptive.

Homelessness is always dangerous, but it’s weather like this that makes people take notice of those who can’t get in from the cold.

Want to know how you can help our struggling neighbors? Here are a few ideas:

  • Be aware of THIS LIST of locations that individuals can visit to warm up.
  • Tell people about Lyft’s generous offer of FREE RIDES.
  • DONATE money to organizations that are directly serving those who are struggling.
  • KNOW THE SIGNS of frostbite and hypothermia and don’t hesitate to call 911 if you see someone who’s in danger.
  • Hand out blankets, cold weather gear and food. Everything helps our neighbors.

With your help, we can help make these frigid temperatures one less thing for our homeless neighbors to worry about.

1-24-19: YOU are an advocate

The voices of the amazing men and women we work with are often silenced. Sometimes because they don’t know where to go or what their rights are. Sometimes because they don’t feel that they have something to say. But most often, it is because they are misunderstood, ostracized and their struggles are covered in negative stigma.

That’s why they need us. That’s why they need you. Every day, we are advocating for the men and women we work with who struggle with homelessness, hunger and substance use disorders. We work every day to help them find a way out of the situation they have found themselves in.

You are an advocate too. Every time that you donate to us. Every time you serve in our Food Centre. Every time you comment on or share a post on our social media. Everything you do for House of Charity, no matter how small it feels, is advocating for us.

The work you do for us is so important. We can’t do this without you. This isn’t us asking you for money. This is us asking you to join us in this fight for support and equality and resources for every single person, no matter their situation.

Food.

Housing.

Mental and chemical health.

What can you fight for? There are events, marches and forums all over the state all the time. Where can you show up?

Even if you don’t feel like you know enough to be an advocate, just showing up means something.

If you want to learn more, we publish advocacy announcements and try to keep up-to-date on events happening that you can attend to learn more or raise your voice for those you can’t.

Here’s that page.

If you want to get an email every time a new advocacy announcement is published, comment on this post or send an email to: a.cisewski@houseofcharity.org

Your voice is so important. Speak for those who can’t. Become an advocate.

1-10-19: What do you want to know?

Happy Thursday! Happy blog day!

We’re so glad you came back.

Before we get too far and get caught up in telling you about the amazing people we work with and the culture and experiences they live in every day, we want to know what you want to know.

There is so much information surrounding homelessness and housing, substance abuse disorders and treatment, and hunger. We want to give you the important stuff, the details and stories that will help you understand these people and be inspired to step up and advocate for them.

This blog is for you, so we want to talk about the things you want to hear about.

Drop us a comment here or on our Facebook page or send an email (below) to tell us about what you want to learn or read about or who you want to hear from!

We’re so glad you’re here!

a.cisewski@houseofcharity.org

1-3-19: Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to our blog! We’re so glad that you’re here. Before you get bored, at least read this post?

At House of Charity we are passionate about far more than furthering our mission. We believe that what we are doing is important, life-saving, world-changing work. But we believe that the people we do that work for are more important. With that in mind, we’ve started this blog.

There is so much stigma surrounding the men and women who seek our services.

If someone is experiencing homelessness, it’s because of laziness.

If someone is struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, it’s because of personal weakness.

If someone doesn’t have enough food to feed their family, it’s because they don’t have enough jobs or have too many kids.

As you read those, do you realize how ludicrous those assumptions sound?

And yet, that is the unspoken opinion many people make about the men and women who walk through our doors.

But we see something different.

We see a man who was willing to give his life for his country and came home with invisible scars.

We see a woman who has been taken advantage of time and again and no longer has the self-esteem to believe that she deserves better.

We see individuals who can’t seem to get ahead, no matter how hard they try.

That’s who we see and that who we want you to see too.

Every Thursday, we will publish a new post. They will be written by different people and from different perspectives.

Knowledge and empathy are the foundation of eradicating stigma and that’s the goal of this blog.

Keep an eye on our social media to know when we add a new post.

Until next week.

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