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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