9-20-19: Exclusive newsletter sneak peek!

Below is an article written by one of our treatment team for our fall newsletter. Enjoy this exclusive sneak peek! To make sure you can read the whole newsletter, subscribe here: https://www.houseofcharity.org/contact-us

A Note from Charlie

Our Day by Day Program has been slowly transitioning to an ever more person-centered system of treatment in which each person has an individual responsibility for determining their own self-care and each person determines what Recovery looks like for him/herself.

This concept is reflected in House of Charity’s mission of empowering individuals to achieve independence by transforming lives, one person at a time.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines recovery as:

“A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

The cornerstones of a recovery journey include: having a safe home; having stable health, participating in a supportive community; and being directed by one’s own sense of purpose.

Services designed to help one on their journey to recovery are more likely to succeed when they take into account the ten guiding principles set out in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

These principles assert that: 

  • Recovery emerges from hope 
  • Recovery occurs via many pathways 
  • Recovery is holistic 
  • It is supported by peers and allies 
  • Recovery is culturally based 
  • It is supported by addressing trauma
  • Recovery involves family and community 
  • Recovery is borne from the individual’s strengths and sustained by their taking on personal responsibilities
  • Recovery is person-driven

At Day by Day we recognize that building a new life free from the harm brought about by substance use and homelessness takes time, benefits from loads of support, and requires that we learn new coping skills that can replace the unhelpful skills we developed while we were using.

Recovery means striving towards wellness, going beyond simply reducing the direct harm that comes in the wake of our substance use. It is a process or journey, with many beginnings and will continue as we each move forward and reach for our full potential.

9-13-19: Our groundbreaking celebration!

On Tuesday, we had a groundbreaking ceremony and we wanted to share some photos from the event with you.

We had a great time gathering with staff, board, community members and city leaders to celebrate the progress we’ve made and the live-saving opportunities that the Park7 building will provide.

We can’t wait to invite you to our grand opening next summer.

Enjoy these photos from the groundbreaking (my personal favorite is the one of the staff, the faces are so funny).

9-6-19: Self-care in recovery

September is National Recovery Month and while we celebrate recovery every day, we like to take the month to pay special attention to recovery and every step it takes to get there.

One of the very important aspects of achieving and maintaining recovery is self-care and mindfulness.

Maintaining recovery means replacing the abuse of substances with healthier coping techniques. It requires staying ahead of triggers and having the energy and skills to deal with unpleasant emotions and situations. A lack of self-care leaves you vulnerable to negative feelings and saps your motivation. If you’re not taking care of yourself, your mood suffers, your concentration decreases and your ability to cope with cravings and triggers is compromised.

We give coping skills toolboxes to our Day by Day treatment clients. These toolboxes have things like scented lotion, coloring books and stress balls. By having a kit of items that helps practice mindfulness and relaxation, our clients are able to independently maintain their recovery.

For everyone, self-care is vitally important for health. Things like eating healthy, exercising regularly and shutting down negative self-talk can help us maintain healthy brains and bodies.

What are your favorite self-care and mindfulness practices?

In our fall newsletter, our staff share their favorite tips and techniques. Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter HERE.

8-30-19: Empowering our clients to empower others

Every Thursday, one of our staff members hosts Cookie Club. This event is a chance for residents and staff to come together and discuss anything they need, ask questions, just spend time together. Below is something that happened at the last Cookie Club and we wanted to share it with you:

We had a great Cookie Club last Thursday where a resident (LW) invited another resident (KD) who had been isolating and avoiding the 510 Building. KD spent much of the meeting sitting quietly in the corner listening as the rest of the group talked about how difficult life can seem when you don’t feel like you have a support network. LW then looked at KD and stated something to the effect of, “You look like you need some support and yet you keep disappearing and you’re not around that much. When we see someone struggling we have the option of exploiting that struggle for our own benefit, standing by and doing nothing, or offering help and the House of Charity wants to help. Now what do you want help with. KD stated that she wanted to get into treatment and that she had one day sober but wasn’t sure where to start or what to do. Kelly and Brandon (HoC) staff happened to be in Cookie Club and were able to set up an appointment for KD to meet with them and start her in the process of treatment right away. The thing I like about this story is that while it speaks to the work that we at House of Charity do, it is a clear demonstration of the power of the residents to support each other and the positive culture that is developing at House of Charity. 

8-16-19: Demolition has started!

Demolition has started and we are pumped! Check out the picture and video from day one of Park7 construction yesterday!

8-9-19: In the wake of El Paso and Dayton

In the wake of tragedies like El Paso and Dayton, as the immediate communities try to put themselves back together, the rest of the country also has to try to move on with those events on our conscience.

Individuals who struggle with mental illness, like our clients, often feel the aftermath very personally. Mental illness is so often the scapegoat, the explanation for the horrific actions of so many. 

That needs to change.

Below is a blog post written by the CEO and president of Mental Health America about just one step we can take.

By Paul Gionfriddo, MHA President and CEO

The mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton are yet another chilling reminder of the changed nation in which we all live.

When the Columbine shootings occurred twenty years ago, we understood it to be an uncommon tragedy. We sought information about the shooters, and naively believed that we might not live through more of these, and that we could move beyond them quickly.

We now know that this is not the case. As these shootings have multiplied, tragedy and trauma have spread throughout all parts of the country, and the effects are lasting.

We mourn the immediate victims; we pray for the comfort of their loved ones.

We try to look beyond the hatred of the shooters to understand the reasons for their actions and to give us hope that there are no more out there like them.

But we now live with the nagging feeling that – much as we hope – these will not be the last mass tragedies we experience. And we know that in cities and families across the nation, smaller tragedies, with equally lasting effects, will occur most every day.

The Mayor of Dayton was eloquent in saying that the lives of ten families – and scores more of those injured – have been changed forever. In El Paso, that is true of dozens more today. We must think about this and, even in the heat of the moment, recognize that we have to do something – today and forever – to respond.

We need a new national commitment from our policy leaders to address trauma. We need more acknowledgement that the traumas we experience are real, and that the effects don’t go away quickly, on their own, or by ignoring them. We need more dollars and more programs, both in the immediate aftermath of traumas and on a long-term basis, to deal with trauma. And we need these things today.

We must never give in to the hate. We must not accept that these mass tragedies are inevitable, or the result of living in a free and welcoming nation. We need policy leaders to recognize that they do lead by example, and that what they say and what they do before and after tragedies have meaning, influence, impact, and consequences.

We need them to confront hate, tragedy, and trauma head on, with words and actions that help our country heal.

At Mental Health America, we pledge to help with that healing, and offer resources on our website free of charge to all who need them.

You can view the original post HERE.

8-2-19: Introducing the Heart of the City Club!

This month, we’re kicking off our monthly giving club with a brand new name for the group of people who regularly support our organization.

The Heart of the City monthly giving club is those supporters of ours who are committed to our neighbors in need and their recovery and independence.

Do you want to be a part of this? Being a monthly donor is valuable for all of us.

For you, not only are you a part of a club with a cool name (everyone’s childhood dream), but you’ll get an inside look at what your dollars are doing. You’ll get a quarterly update with news about each program and the organization as a whole, client stories only shared there and you’ll hear first about chances to keep helping our neighbors and other community events.

For us, knowing your support will come each month allows us to plan for growth and improvement in our programs and supports.

But, most importantly, your reliable support allows our clients to continue to have the stability they need to overcome addiction, beat homelessness and take back their independence. 

By you being a monthly supporter, you’re telling our clients that their recovery is important to you.

Your support is more valuable that we can describe. If you aren’t already, will you join the Heart of the City club and be a part of the group of people that’s saving lives every day?

The Otto Bremer Foundation is matching the gifts of every new club member, for the rest of the year!

Join today and start saving lives.

www.houseofcharity.org/recurring-donation

7-26-19: Time for some advocacy!

Did you know earlier this week, the Trump administration announced proposed rule changes that would have drastic consequences for low-income Minnesotans who participate in SNAP.
If the proposed rule change goes into effect, it would kick at least 12,000 low-income Minnesotans off of SNAP – leaving them without the resources to feed their families.

What to do about it

Before the rule can be finalized, it must go through a 60-day comment period. Submit a comment and let them know how this would our clients!

What I wrote! (Please feel free to use any of it!)

“To whom it may concern,
As someone who volunteers in a Food Centre, in Minneapolis Minnesota, where people who are hungry receive services, I understand the repercussions on those we serve if the proposed change to the SNAP program is implemented.

The majority of those that eat with us receive SNAP benefits and are STILL hungry enough to come eat in our Food Centre many days a week.

In fact, on the day of the winter vortex (-50 degrees with windchill,  where being outside for 5 minutes put you at risk of getting frostbite) we had 100 community members show up for a meal at our Food Centre.

They braved FROSTBITE because they needed food. Cutting SNAP would put more families at risk of having to make decisions like these.

If that doesn’t say something about hunger, I’m not sure what would.

Not only would the proposal sidestep congress, take food off the tables of working families, children, seniors, those with disabilities, it would also prevent students from receiving healthy school meals and hurt the economy by reducing the amount of SNAP dollars available to spur local economic activity.

Please do NOT support this proposal!

7-19-19: Why Housing First?

Have you every wondered why we follow the Housing First Model in our housing programs? This article by the National Alliance to End Homelessness explains it well!

Housing First is a very simple concept that is often misunderstood.  Housing First is an approach to homelessness that prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness quickly, thus ending their homelessness and serving as a platform from which they can pursue personal goals and improve their quality of life.

Should housing come first? 

But why should housing come first?  People who experience homelessness may have a myriad of other challenges, including a mental health or substance use disorder, limited education or work skills, or a history of domestic violence and trauma.  Would people experiencing homelessness be better off if we helped them address other issues they are struggling with first and address their housing needs later?

These are not uncommon arguments.  Housing First, it has been argued, allows people to avoid addressing severe challenges, such as a substance use disorder.  The argument continues that if these underlying issues go unaddressed, people will quickly return to homelessness.

At times, these arguments have successfully delayed implementation of Housing First in many programs and localities. But they’re based on false premises. Services are part of Housing First interventions. People are offered or connected to services that are tailored to the needs of their household. But these services are not mandated: and people are not coerced into accepting them. Client choice is a fundamental tenet of Housing First practice.

What the evidence shows.

Housing First-informed interventions such as Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) demonstrate again and again that when people have help paying for housing, and when they receive services tailored to their individual needs, they will escape homelessness and they will stay housed.  Not only are Housing First interventions effective in ending homelessness, they are typically cheaper than allowing people to remain homeless and reliant on public shelters and other services.

Practitioners with long histories of serving people experiencing long-term homeless adults know that withholding housing help until people “get better” can result in people spending years on the streets as their health declines. People with severe mental illnesses cycle frequently between jails, hospitals, shelters and streets without ever achieving a stable home. Those that have seen this heartbreaking cycle, unfortunately still too common given inadequate resources, understand this fundamental truth: withholding housing assistance doesn’t help people, it hurts them.

Housing First promotes housing stability and well-being.

Instead of requiring people to stabilize before receiving housing, Housing First interventions focus on helping people achieve stability in housing first.  This is often a critical precursor to other improvements in their lives.  People with the foundation of a home are better positioned to take advantage of supportive services: they have the stability in which to engage in job search. They have the platform they need to provide care and continuity for their young children. They have the safety housing affords that allow those who want to address traumatic experiences with a skilled practitioner to do so at a pace that is unthreatening and makes sense to them. They have a safe place to store medication and address their health and mental health needs. The absence of housing help makes attaining personal goals that much harder to attain.

Housing First focuses on providing the housing assistance and the supportive services that people require to sustain housing and avoid future homelessness.  Study after study demonstrates that housing has many curative benefits for people experiencing homelessness. It is true it does not solve every need; people still require additional supports to attain personal goals and continue to thrive.  But one thing housing clearly does solve?  Homelessness.

7-12-19: We made it! It’s time for demolition!

Today was an exciting day at House of Charity! Check out the press release below to learn about our upcoming construction project!

Minneapolis, Minnesota (July 12, 2019) –
House of Charity starts construction on its
Park7 building on Friday, July 12th

This new building will add 61 studio apartments with on-site services for people experiencing homelessness in Minneapolis. Park7, located at 615 South 7th Street, Minneapolis, (former Finance and Commerce property) will be a four-story building with 61
smoke-free and pet friendly efficiency apartments for people experiencing long-term homelessness. The apartments range from
350 – 430 square feet. All 61 units are reserved for permanent affordable housing including ten for veterans, ten for young adults aged 18 – 24, and ten for people who are disabled or dual diagnosis of substance use disorder and mental illness.
Tenants will have 24-hour access to services including case managers on each of the three floors to help tenants make plans to retain housing and move to greater independence. They will also provide access to benefits, neighborhood orientation, and referrals for financial management, employment services and health care services. In addition, tenants will be in close proximity to supports including Hennepin County Medical Center across the street, light rail two blocks away, the VA Medical Center on the blue line, and House of Charity’s Food Centre and addiction and mental health outpatient treatment services a half block away. Affordable housing paired with supportive services is a proven strategy that increases housing stability for people experiencing long-term homelessness.

The building will be completed summer 2020.
House of Charity is partnering with Community Housing Development Corporation (CHDC) to develop the building and Urban Works is the project architect.

“House of Charity has decades of experience providing services to the homeless in downtown Minneapolis,” says Heidi Rathmann, Senior Vice President of CHDC. “What CHDC brings is the experience of developing and owning supportive housing developments. Our role is to help House of Charity carry out its mission and to make its vision for this project a reality.”

Special thanks to Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, the National Housing Trust Fund, the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council, and private donors for their $11,222,000 in financial support of this critical expansion in Downtown Minneapolis.
An extra thank you to Thrivent Financial for their gift of $1 million that enables House of Charity to provide building amenity and service enhancements.
“House of Charity serves an important role in the East Town neighborhood, and we’re honored to support them as they fulfill their mission to feed those in need, house those experiencing homelessness and empower individuals to achieve independence,” said Teresa Rasmussen, president and CEO of Thrivent. “We at Thrivent know that together we can make a difference by creating strong families, churches and communities.”
“House of Charity has been providing comprehensive services to meet the needs of our homeless community since 1953. It has always been the vision of the program to work towards ending homelessness in our community,” said Deb Moses, CEO/Executive Director of House of Charity. “The building of Park7 takes us one step closer in realizing that vision by providing 61 homeless individuals with a permanent housing solution combined with high quality support services to meet the needs of each individual served, in order to assist in maintaining stability and independence in their lives.”

To keep up-to-date on all things constructions, keep an eye on the page below or follow us on social media.

6-28-19: Food insecurity isn’t just for "them".

Hunger. Food insecurity.

It doesn’t just effect third-world countries or our neighbors who are standing on street corners asking for help.

All it takes is one medical emergency, one car issue, one home repair and your neighbor could be struggling to put food on the table every meal.

Twelve percent of American household struggle with food insecurity. That may sound like a small number but it still means that almost 40 million people are at risk of not having their nutritional needs met.

Summer is an especially difficult time because free or reduced school lunches are no longer an option.

We know that hunger never takes a vacation. It never gives you a break. And that’s why our Food Centre is open 365 days a year. Forty percent of our Food Centre guests say that our lunch will be the only meal they eat all day.

What we’re doing is so important. How will you help us?

How can you help end this crisis?

6-21-19: Stigma has got to go!

The dictionary defines stigma as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

And, gosh, we see it every single day.

Did you know that almost 40% of people who struggle with mental illness or addiction won’t seek help because of the stigma that surrounds those struggles?

Can you believe that? FORTY PERCENT of our neighbors struggling won’t get the help they need because they’re afraid of what their family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc. will say.

There is a pervasive opinion that those struggling with homelessness, hunger, addiction or mental illness are dangerous, lazy, failing and myriad other destructive descriptions.

The truth is that the woman and her children standing in line to eat breakfast in our Food Centre or the man waiting to get a bed in our residence hall or a spot in our Day by Day could all be us. All it takes is one tragedy, one medical emergency, one rough day.

A person doesn’t lose their home because of a personal weakness. And individual doesn’t become dangerous because they struggle with a substance use disorder.

I hope that if your parent, child or friend found themselves in one of these situations that you wouldn’t ostracize and abuse them. And if you wouldn’t, our neighbors in need certainly shouldn’t be treated poorly either.

We can do better. We must do better. What can you do today to end stigma surrounding homelessness, addiction or mental illness?

6-14-19: Recovery is about the whole person

This is going to be short and sweet because some things don’t need a lot of words to say what’s really important.

At House of Charity, we believe that recovery is about caring for the whole person. Whether an individual comes to us looking for housing, treatment or both, we’re going to do everything we can to empower them to regain their independence.
When an individual seeks housing with us, we help them go back to school or find a job as well.

In our Day by Day substance use disorder and mental health recovery program, we believe that caring for the whole person is the most important part of recovery.
Our holistic approach to the treatment of co-occurring disorders has the ability to restore the mind, body, and spirit through such program components as:

  • Personalized Recovery Plans
  • Health & Wellness Programming
  • Psychotherapy
  • Chemical Health Assessments
  • Mental Health Evaluations
  • Life Skills Development
  • Dual Disorder Case Management
  • Individual, Group, and Family Counseling

Each aspect of our program is designed to help individuals in recovery and encourage life-long coping skills and community. Last year, Kyle, one of our counselors, wrote about how 41% of individuals living with mental illness will never receive help and how 90% of Americans living with substance use disorders will never receive treatment. This is because those individuals expect and feel judgement and isolation when they need help and community the most.
By taking care of the whole person, we are helping each individual who steps through our doors find independence.

6-7-19: What People in the LGBTQA+ and Mental Illness Community Want You to Know

Happy Pride Month! This month we celebrate our LGBTQA+ friends. While this month is about celebrating, we still want to take some time for learning, because knowledge will help end stigma.

Blog post by and published on The Mighty, written by Sarah Schuster.

You can view the original post here: themighty.com/lgbtq-mental-illness-pride-month/

20 Things People in the LGBTQA+ and Mental Illness Community Wish Others Understood

During Pride Month, events and parades across the country celebrate how far the LGBTQA+ community has come in fighting for the right to simply be themselves — and love whomever they want to love — freely. It’s also a time to reflect on the challenges people in the LGBTQA+ community still face, with politicians pushing laws that hinder their right to exist in public spaces or make it legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. On top of this, lack of acceptance and cruel bullying can have dire psychological consequences.

According to The Trevor Project, lesbian, gay and bi adolescents and adults have two to six times higher rates of reported suicide attempts compared to comparable straight populations. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also states that folks in the LGBTQA+ community are almost three times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder. There’s no doubt that discrimination and societal pressures plays a part in this. 

There’s also the uncomfortable fact that being gay was actually listed as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) until 1973. Now, those who are gay and living with a diagnosed mental illness have a different set of challenges — while someone may be supportive of your sexuality, they might hold hurtful beliefs about people who live with depression. Another person may get what it means to have bipolar but think a person’s asexuality is “all in their head.” Likewise, while some see their mental illness as part of their identity — perhaps similar to their sexuality — others see their illness as something separate from themselves, unlike their sexual orientation. And neither is wrong.

We were curious to see what the LGBTQA+ people in our mental health community thought about this intersection between mental illness and sexuality, so we asked them to tell us one thing they wish people understood. 

Here’s what they told us:

1. “Just because I have a mental illness doesn’t mean I’m confused about my sexuality. A person’s sexuality is not caused by mental illness nor is it a mental illness in itself.” — Lauren D.

2. “My queerness and my neurodivergence are inseparable, and that’s OK. I’m not a bad example for the cause because of it.” — Stá S.

3. “My mental illness did not cause me to be bisexual nor did being bisexual cause me to have mental illness. My identification as bisexual stands alone from my illnesses, and I believe firmly I would still have been bisexual had I not developed MI as a result of the traumas in my early life. I want people to understand it not part of a personality disorder or a reaction to trauma. It is in my genetic makeup as much as my eye color and my skin tone.” — Lisa K.

4. “My sexuality and mental illness aren’t the same nor are they interchangeable. I will always be apart of the LGBTQ+ community and I will always live with the effects of my mental illness. I just wish you guys wouldn’t tiptoe around me when it comes to such subjects like depression and PTSD because it is so degrading and hurtful, and I get that you don’t wish to trigger me, but instead of avoiding it — talk to me about it and find out about my experience. Find out about my triggers and find out about me too.” — Kayla W.

5. “I wish I connect with more people in the LGBTQA+ community, but having social anxiety makes that super hard. I’d love to reach out and meet more like-minded and similar people, but I can only manage to do so much (most of my friendships are long-distance/online). And finding safe spaces nearby to meet people is also a huge struggle as well.” — Elizabeth G.

6. “People outside the community understood that labels don’t define who we are, but stigma damages us more than they realize — as someone who has fought to accept both her mental illness and her asexuality, people telling me ‘it’s just a phase’ or ‘you’ll get over it’ or ‘you just haven’t met the right person yet’ doesn’t help me accept myself one single bit.” — Ciara L.

7. “Just because I was abused by a man (step-dad) does not mean that is why I’m a lesbian. My PTSD has nothing to do with my sexuality. I liked women before the trauma. What really bugs me the most is that some people think that an LGBTQA+ person owes an explanation of their sexuality. No one should ever have to explain to anyone their sexuality.” — Victoria E.

8. “Wish they would understand how hard the LGBTQ community gets bullied, picked on and verbally abused by others and how it affects them in many different ways… we are just normal people trying to live our life as any other people and just want to be accepted for who we are, not what we are stereotyped as.” — Ryan D.

9. “My mental illness does not cause my sexuality. I have PTSD and depression, and I am asexual. The trauma was not the cause, I just so happen to have both of these as part of my life. Period.” — Courtney H.

10. “I’m not ‘just confused’ because I’m non-binary. But my sexuality and gender do impact my mental health. Minority stress is real, and it has a real effect on well-being.” — Sarah B.

11. “It’s hard to find other LGBTQ people when you have social anxiety disorder and aren’t out to anyone. I’ve found the community has an intimidating reputation, and social anxiety makes it doubly so.” — Jessica C.

12. “We deserve to be included.” — Alicja M.

13. “Bisexuality is part of my identity. Depression is not.” — Reming M.

14. “I’m not depressed because of my sexual identity, nor am I queer because I’m depressed. I wish society would stop trying to pathologize my attraction to people.” — Lex C.

15. “Being an outcast in both communities is very lonesome and tiring.” — Minja K.

16. “I am not broken in any sense of the word. But I am 100 percent valid.” — Michelle B.

17. “I wish people understood that I like girls all the time, not only when my mood is manic.” — Julia D.

18. “I’m pansexual, and I wish other people understood, regardless of my sexual orientation, I am still a person. A person with a debilitating mental illness who needs love and support. If you cannot support me then step aside.” — Sarahjane W.

19. “Being bipolar doesn’t make me bisexual, and I’m fully capable of having a proper romantic relationship (and I’ve been in one for almost three years).” — Alanna G.

20. “We are this way, and we are proud of it, so please give us support.” — Megan D.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

5-31-19: mental health is as important as physical health

Written by Nicole Laumer, House of Charity Community Engagement Coordinator

Before I was diagnosed with anxiety, I thought the following was normal:

Being 30 minutes early to every meeting, presentation, class or mandatory event

Avoiding social gatherings

Avoiding talking to people because I didn’t know how they would perceive me

Being afraid to slow down

Being afraid to relax

Feel like something bad was looming around every corner

I thought everyone’s life was like this. Full of fear. Not motivated by passion, love, interest and joy, but rather motivated by the fear of failure or criticism. My thought process was: If I’m good at everything, no one will criticize me or realize I’m not supposed to be here. This is also known as “imposter syndrome”.

To the outsider, I was an A+ student, an amazingly motivated employee, and a hard worker. But on the inside I was in torment. I was always afraid that I wasn’t good enough, and that something bad was going to happen if I didn’t slow down.

When I was diagnosed and treated, the world changed.

All the sudden the cloud of fear that was always in my sky dissipated. For the first time in a long time, I could feel the sun on my face and let joy fill my mind, without the fear that I should be doing something else right now… thinking about something else right now…moving right now. I was able to Stop. Breathe. Listen. Enjoy.

This diagnosis changed my life.  

My supportive community changed my life.

My therapist changed my life.

My acceptance that my mental health takes just as much precedence as my physical health changed my life.

In this Mental Health Awareness Month, my hope is we all realize our Mental Health matters JUST AS MUCH as our physical health, and that we need a supportive community when we experience mental health challenges just as much as when we need help after a surgery or when we get the flu. It may not take the form of a bowl of soup, but every supportive voice matters.

Let’s do this work. Together.

5-24-19: Surviving mental illness

Written by Kristi Gibson, House of Charity Mental Health Practitioner and Veteran Liaison

I’ve wrestled with depression and anxiety my whole life. I was an extremely shy child and did not speak much, struggling with an eating disorder and chemical abuse as a pre-teen. My husband, whom I met when I was 18, was a huge influence on me to get my life together. We built a life and had two children. He died of brain cancer in 2013 and my depression came back full force. Both of my kids have depression with losing their dad, and I strive to make them talk about their struggles, and see how important it is to speak out to others.

Luckily, with doctors, therapists, grief groups, medications and some really good friends, I have made it to this point-at the House of Charity helping others. I see myself in the residents with the struggles of mental health and addiction, and know I could easily be in their place. I have come to the realization that depression and anxiety are just a part of me, as much as my crooked teeth and graying hair, and my experiences with them have made me who I am today, humble, grateful, thankful for each and every new day.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy were quietly watching a sunset when Charlie Brown says, “Well Snoopy, you only live once.” Snoopy replied, “No Charlie Brown, you only die once. You live every day!”

5-9-19: Self-care and mindfulness

Whether you are currently struggling with mental illness or not, having the resources to practice self-care and mindfulness is an important aspect of mental health.

Whether in the middle of an anxiety attack, a particularly bad day with depression, or just a stressful day at the office, knowing where to look for a guided meditation or another resource to center your self is vital for your health.

We want to share with you some of our favorite coping skills and mindfulness tactics so that the next time you need help, you have all the resources you need.

A lot of these things depend on what you feel you need and might change day to day. Our goal is to just getting you thinking about these things so that you’re ready.

Deep Breathing

Breathing is an annoying cliché at this point, but that’s because the best way to calm anxiety really is to breathe deeply. One of the easiest techniques is “5 3 7” breathing:

  • Breathe in for 5 seconds
  • Hold the breath for 3 seconds
  • Breathe out for 7 seconds

This gentle repetition sends a message to the brain that everything is okay (or it will be soon). Before long, your heart will slow its pace and you will begin to relax—sometimes without even realizing it.

Meditation

A few really good meditation apps are available to help to learn how to cope with different things. Just choose what you’d like the meditation to focus on and follow along. Here are a few of our favorites that are available for both Apple and Android:

The Mindfulness App

Headspace

Calm

Sattva

Insight Timer

The 5 Senses

Another effective way to use your physical space to ground you through a crisis is by employing a technique called “The 5 Senses.” Instead of focusing on a specific object, with “The 5 Senses” you run through what each of your senses is experiencing in that moment. As an example, imagine a PTSD flashback comes on in the middle of class. Stop! Look around you. See the movement of a clock’s hands. Feel the chair beneath you. Listen to your teacher’s voice. Smell the faint aroma of the chalkboard. Chew a piece of gum.

Running through your senses will take only a few seconds and will help keep you present and focused on what is real, on what is happening right now.

Coping-Skills Toolbox

Have a collection of a few things that can help you center yourself and relax. We give these to many of our treatment clients; here’s what we put in ours:

  • Stress balls
  • scented lotions
  • crayons
  • markers
  • art supplies
  • bubbles
  • glitter sensory bottles
  • coloring books
  • Journals

Activities

What are some activities that are relaxing for you? Hiking? Going for a drive? Playing and instrument? Find a few activities that you can do and take a mental health day.

Our mental health is so important. Let’s take care of it.

Assemble Coping Skills Toolboxes for our Day by Day treatment clients HERE!

Resources:

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/January-2019/Self-Help-Techniques-for-Coping-with-Mental-Illnes

https://themighty.com/2017/11/different-coping-techniques-for-mental-illness/

5-3-19: Post from NAMI blog

Post for NAMI Blog by Jessie Yu, originally published on May 1, 2019

In recent years, mental illness has become a popular topic of discussion in various forms of mass media. As Western society has worked to break down barriers surrounding taboo subjects, we have challenged the stigma surrounding mental illness. This is undeniably a positive thing—stigma is one of the primary barriers preventing people with mental illness from seeking professional help.

However, this spread of recognition is introducing a new set of problems that need to be confronted before they get out of hand: mental illness is being both sensationalized and misrepresented.

On Television

TV has a long and complicated history with mental illness. Characters with mental illness are often portrayed as violent and dangerous, are sometimes played off as punchlines and mental health professionals such as psychiatrists commonly take on a villainous role. More recent shows like “This Is Us”and “Jessica Jones” have been doing a better job of portraying mental illness accurately, but not all modern TV has been following suit.

A few years ago, Netflix released a show called “13 Reasons Why.” You’ve probably heard of it—the first season quickly gained both popularity and criticism, sparking heated debates across the internet. In the show, the main character dies by suicide, and it’s framed as an act of revenge against her classmates who wronged her.

This portrayal of suicide is an awful misrepresentation—suicide is rarely planned out in such a methodical way. Additionally, there is little mention of mental illness in the first season, even though 46% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental illness.

In The News

In mainstream news, mental illness is often portrayed inaccurately or carelessly. There has been a measure of improvement in the way news outlets report on mental illness. However, the news still tends to sensationalize stories involving mental illness and suicide. For example, in 2018, Kate Spade’s death by suicide was reported in all manners of problematic ways, including graphic details of how she died, photos of her body and headlines that focused on the act rather than the death.

Across Social Media

Social media has become a platform for young people to express themselves and connect with their peers, but it has also become a hub for romanticizing mental illness. In particular, tumblr has allowed teenagers and young adults to share and create unfiltered posts about mental illness.

While this open online discussion can help foster a sense of community, there has also been a trend of treating mental illness like it’s something that should be sought-after. Black-and-white photos of self-harm scars overlaid with sensationalized quotes are a common sight. One alarming image reads “I think suicidal people are just angels who want to go home.”

Why Is This An Issue?

Sensationalizing mental illness can be harmful, especially for impressionable young teenagers. Those images of self-harm might encourage others to view mental illness as something that is “tragically beautiful.” Additionally, sensationalism can lead people to believe that mental illness is just a part of who they are, and that therapy is a “sham.” For example, memes that started out as a way to call people out for being dismissive of mental illness, have evolved into a way for people to excuse their own behavior and even scoff at the notion of seeking help.

More dangerously, suicide can be contagious. Studies show that when the news offers sensationalized stories of suicide or reports attempts in detail, suicide rates increase. The release of “13 Reasons Why”caused an uptick in searches related to suicide, which is concerning because research has shown that such searches correlate with actual suicides.

Personally, I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since I was in middle school. However, I didn’t want to admit to myself that I had mental illness for years. When I finally did, I didn’t open up to others for a while because I didn’t want to add to a culture of sensationalizing mental illness.

How Can We Do Better?

De-stigmatizing mental illness is important, and it’s wonderful that there have been increased conversations about mental health online. But we need to consider how the battle to reduce stigma has led to more nuanced problems in society. Moving forward, we need to call for more accurate portrayals in TV shows and movies that are grounded in research and lived experience.

When releasing stories involving mental illness and suicide, news outlets should be held accountable to follow guidelines such as the ones set by the American Psychological Association and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. And it’s important to raise awareness that focuses on how people can get help. Mental illness is like any other illness—you should want to get better, and you need to actively work towards it. That’s what people should be hearing online.

Jessie Yu is a 19-year-old undergraduate student at Virginia Tech. She has written several articles for her university’s newspaper and is passionate about raising mental health awareness.

Original post: www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/May-2019/From-Stigmatized-to-Sensationalized

4-16-19: Is monthly donation really that important?

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet because a million words aren’t always necessary.

I’m sure you’ve seen in our various mailings, emails and social media posts us asking you to become a monthly recurring donor.

We don’t do that only because we need your support (which we do); it’s more than that.

When you become a recurring donor, we can count on you. Being able to count on you means that we can plan bigger, grow better and inspire more.

When we know what we can count on every month, we are able to give better opportunities to our clients.

That is so important.

Plus, when you become a recurring online donor, you don’t have to worry about forgetting. Win-Win!

We hope you’ll join the club of our most dependable supporters. We really like you (spoiler: we like all of the people who care about House of Charity).

To become a recurring donor, you can sign up here: www.houseofcharity.org/recurring-donation

4-19-19: What Housing First Really Means

No two people experience homelessness the same way. Some have a mental health diagnosis, some do not. Some are living with addiction, others are not. Some spend each night in shelter, while others sleep in doorways, cars, or encampments.

Yet, everyone experiencing homelessness shares one thing in common: they do not have a safe or appropriate place to live.

Similarly, it is unlikely that any two people have the same path out of homelessness. Some will find long term stability by reconnecting with family or friends. Others will find new housing, get a new job, or connect with benefits that quickly allow them to exit homelessness on their own. Some will need more intensive supports like rapid re-housing or permanent supportive housing to help them find housing, pay for it, and maintain it.

Yet, there is one thing that can resolve anyone’s homelessness crisis:  reconnecting with permanent housing.

Housing First (Not Housing Only)

This is what we mean by Housing First: that homelessness is a problem with a solution, and that the solution is housing. For everyone. Whether you follow the rules or not. Whether you are “compliant” with treatment or not. Whether you have a criminal record or not. Whether you have been on the streets for one day or ten years. Permanent housing is what ends homelessness. It is the platform from which people can continue to grow and thrive in their communities.

Housing First is a philosophy that values flexibility, individualized supports, client choice, and autonomy. It never has been housing only, and it never should be.

Supportive services are part of the Housing First model.  That might include formal support services, like a doctor, therapist, or social worker. It might involve informal supports, like connecting with family, friends, or faith groups.

But, in Housing First, these supports are not prescribed; people have the agency to select the supportive services they need and want, tailoring their supports to their own unique situation.

One Size Does Not Fit All

However, in communities across the country, many service providers, politicians and concerned citizens continue to dismiss Housing First as a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Oddly enough, the alternatives recommended frequently include approaches like transitional housing, or drug and alcohol treatment programs. By their very nature, these approaches assume people experiencing homelessness have a predictable set of needs and must complete a prescribed process in order to be “ready” for housing.

The Housing First approach is the polar opposite of a one-size-fits-all approach. Nothing in the Housing First philosophy precludes someone from pursuing the services, supports and housing that they need and want. If those services include mental health or addiction treatment, they are connected to it. If the housing they want is sober living, they are free to select it. Nobody is required to participate in a service that they do not want in order to receive or retain housing. In fact, requirements like these would assume a singular, “one-size-fits-all” path from homelessness to housing.

The Leaders Agree

In his plenary speech at the 2019 Solutions for Individual Homeless Adults National Conference in San Diego, Matthew Doherty, Executive Director for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) provided a passionate defense of the model:

“We have the opportunity to not waste precious time on endless debates regarding whether Housing First works for ‘this population’ or ‘in this community’ and to resist bogus arguments that a focus on Housing First imposes a one-size-fits-all solution on people or programs. We can speak the real truth that Housing First approaches are the opposite of one-size-fits-all and help ensure that we don’t leave anyone behind.”

He was echoed later in the conference by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson who stated that “the evidence then and now supports Housing First.”

USICH recently issued a “resource roundup” of some of the best articles, videos and tools to help communities understand and implement the Housing First model. It is a great place for anyone to start to gain an understanding of the principles and practice of the approach.

Simple, but Not Easy

Housing First is not easy. Recruiting landlords is not easy – especially when applicants have limited income or credit, or a history of evictions. Helping someone re-learn the intricacies of tenancy is not easy. Navigating a bureaucracy to secure mental and physical health care is not easy.

But, Housing First is simple. Nothing in any person’s history or present precludes them from being able to be housed.

While the challenges to getting into that housing and maintaining it may be many, the goal is the same: housing is the solution to homelessness.

You a  view the original post here: https://endhomelessness.org/what-housing-first-really-means/

4-12-19: Our Volunteers are THE BEST

This past week has been National Volunteer Week and we have had so much fun celebrating our volunteers.

We’re obviously not biased at all when we say that we have the best volunteers in the world. No competition, it’s just a fact.

Throughout this week, we asked volunteers why they volunteer and the majority of them said because they want to give back to their community.

How lucky are we? The individuals who serve in our Food Centre take time from their busy lives to take care of their neighbors.

We’ve had some well known people like Mayor Frey, Caleb Truax and the Timberwolves serve in our Food Centre, and we are so glad when they come.

But it is YOU, the people who showed up on Christmas Day, during the polar vortex in February, yesterday when winter decided it wasn’t done yet. You’re the ones that we’re so excited to celebrate.

It is YOU, the people who don your aprons and hairnets and serve scoop after scoop of chili with a smile and a hello. You are the ones we are so grateful for.

It is YOU, the families and coworkers and church groups that remind us that serving saves lives.

We are so lucky that you chose us. We’ll see you for lunch!

4-5-19: The Diversity of Gentrification

written by Nicole Laumer, HoC’s community engagement coordinator

THE DIVERSITY OF GENTRIFICATION:

“What makes a city?”

This was the question asked by teachers in a local Twin Cities school this past year. What teachers expected to hear from the elementary students in attendance was words like “buildings” “cars” or “roads”. What they heard shocked them.

When asked, “What makes a city?” The first answer from a student was “Community”.

This comment is simple- yet hits on an important point in the argument about gentrification (a process of renovating deteriorated urban neighborhoods by means of the influx of more affluent residents.) And that is, how valued the people of the city are in the larger conversation about “development.”

As a grown professional adult, my answers to the question “what makes a city” would probably have revolved around things such as public facilities, highways, transit and infrastructure. However, in studying, witnessing and having conversations about gentrification and homelessness, I’ve come to realize that community is at the heart.

One argument I hear is that development of communities via an influx of investment is a positive thing because it significantly increases the wealth, attention and investment in a community. What you see is new development, shops, increased maintenance of public areas. However, as the student hit on rather eloquently, a city is not the bones (buildings, roads, cars etc.) It is the community that uses these bones to support each other, share cultures, invest in themselves,  and run their own businesses that makes a city.

And what people don’t realize, is that when you invest in new luxury apartments, coffee shops and other businesses that are designed to be attractive to NEW people moving in (Increasing land value, property taxes and overall cost of living), you ignore the talents and potential of those that have lived in that area for generations. And in some cases you even displace them by pricing current residents out of the neighborhood their great-grandparents lived in.

According to the recent study The Diversity of Gentrification: Multiple forms of gentrification in Minneapolis and St. Paul,  “At the core of the debate over gentrification are the issue of displacement and the question of who benefits and who is harmed by the neighborhood changes induced by it. Even low-income households that worry about gentrification are frequently in favor of neighborhood improvement. What concerns them is their ability to remain within the community and benefit from the improvements; that is, their ability to avoid physical displacement. If they do remain in the neighborhood, their concerns focus on issues of cultural and political displacement and the changes in the neighborhood that marginalize them.”

So, I believe the conversation needs to shift to people first. WHO lives in the neighborhood? What are their stories? What are their needs? How can they use THEIR talents to create the change they want to see in their community? How can they be the primary visionaries, drivers and recipients of the development in their community?

According to the same study, there are three areas to focus on to fight against gentrification: changing policy, redirecting resources and shifting the narrative.

However, my first question starts with YOU.  What community do you live in?

What is the history of your neighborhood? Who lives close to you and what are their stories? Do you notice a change around you? If so, how is it affecting you or those you know?

Let’s start there. By looking around, noticing and connecting. Then, we can take the next step forward, together.

http://gentrification.umn.edu/sites/g/files/pua4816/f/media/diversity-of-gentrification-012519.pdf?utm_source=CURA&utm_campaign=c5bb864872-CURA_Housing_Forum_nov_18_reminder_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_580f30cfc5-c5bb864872-338963041

3-29-19: The homeless aren’t dangerous

“The homeless in our city are dangerous and violent and should be avoided.”

This statement is a pervasive stigma that surrounds our neighbors who have lost their homes, particularly the individuals we see holding signs on free-way off ramps or on a downtown street corner. By and large, individuals experiencing homelessness are considered dangerous, when, in fact, they encounter far more danger than most people do in the entire lives.

Individuals experiencing homelessness are the victims of abuse with shocking frequency. Approximately half of these vulnerable people have been threatened or verbally abused and one third of them have been physically attacked. All because they had the misfortune of losing their home and are doing all they know to get by.

But physical abuse isn’t the only danger our homeless neighbors have to face. The weather in dangerous too. All weather.

This February we got a particularly harsh reminder that living in the outdoors is dangerous. As temps plummeted, our eyes were opened to just how dire the situation was. Even in temps like today, 40 degrees, hypothermia can take hold in just an hour.

As summer approaches, we might be tempted to relax, assuming that our homeless neighbors are safe from dangerous weather. But warm weather is dangerous too. Dehydration, heat stroke and extreme weather pose new dangers for those without a home to keep them safe.

By reading just one of the stories of our clients, you will see that those who have experienced homelessness are resilient, inspiring people with amazing stories to tell.

Just because someone has lost their home doesn’t make them dangerous. Take some time to listen to someone’s story today. And even if you don’t have time for that, offer a smile. It’ll make all the difference in the world.

Spend an afternoon in our Food Centre. People of all ages will come in from the danger and the weather, just looking for a warm meal. We give them that.

Join our team. We’re helping our homeless neighbors feel a little less alone.

houseofcharity.galaxydigital.com

3-22-19: Why Volunteerism Matters

Written by Nicole Laumer, HoC’s Community Engagement Coordinator

There are many moments in my life when I contemplate if I am making a difference. I see news reports that make my skin crawl about sexual assault, global warming, school shootings, police brutality, and horrific injustices. I read books on gentrification and the prison industrial complex, and watch documentaries highlighting the racial wealth gap. I go to work and interact with people with no idea where they’re going to sleep tonight.

Everyone has moments where they get overwhelmed by these issues.. However, some of us have the privilege of disconnecting from them. If I know I won’t be going hungry tonight, then I can disengage, pretend, self-soothe. If I make the problem big enough, I can convince myself that there’s nothing I can do about it, and I’m off the hook.

I’ve done it before.

But is it fair to put the work to solve these challenges on the backs of those who have experienced the trauma, who are fighting to stay alive? Is it the job of the man experiencing homelessness to lobby for tenant rights and subsidized housing, battle housing discrimination and rent control while looking for a meal and a hot shower? It is the job of a trans woman, who was just assaulted, to fight for stricter protections and culture change?

I believe the answer is no.

Because this could be us. We could have been the student in the school when the gunman pulled the trigger. We could have been born the wrong gender and assaulted for it. We could have grown up in the cycle of poverty, or a person of color born on the wrong side of the wealth gap.

The only way for us to change the world is for each of us to recognize that the problems might be large, but embrace what we CAN do about it.

For instance, those that volunteer to serve meals in House of Charity’s Food Centre are not going to solve global hunger in one day, but they are supporting an organization that serves 250 meals to those that could use one. That is 84,000 meals a year! And this is ONLY possible because volunteers take a few hours out of their day to serve meals, chop onions and help us in general.

That onion might have seemed small to them, but it is not to us.

So my question to you is, if you had no idea if you would wake up tomorrow homeless, or a victim of an assault, or a person of color, what would you want the world to be like? What would you want to be available to you? Then ask yourself- how can I create this world?

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!

___________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

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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